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Nederlog

August 27, 2015
Crisis: Journalism, China, Human Rights, Women, Modern Philosophy

 "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.
Jorge Ramos Commits Journalism, Gets Immediately
     Attacked by Journalists

2. China can ride out this crisis. But we’re on course for
     another crash

3. Human rights groups face global crackdown 'not seen in a
     generation'
 
4. VIDEO: Women’s Equality Day: Whatever Happened to
     the Equal Rights Amendment?

5. Here's Why No One Cares About Modern Philosophy 



This is a Nederlog of Thursday August 27, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is about an interesting article by Glenn Greenwald on real and false journalism; item 2 is a reasonable article by Seumas Milne about China and the crisis (which lasts since 2008, and still continues, except for the rich few); item 3 is about a massive movement by governments against the non-governmental human rights groups
(which is quite frightening); item 4 is about a video that draws attention to the
fact that the Equal Rights Amendment, in spite of being adopted by Congress in 1972, still is not a part of U.S. law; and item 5 is an interesting bit about "Modern Philosophy" that I agree is totally uninteresting (the philosophy, not the article: that is deserved).
 

1. Jorge Ramos Commits Journalism, Gets Immediately Attacked by Journalists

The first article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:
This is in fact about the radical decline in journalists' integrity and honesty, especially in the USA but also elsewhere [1], which gets discussed by Glenn Greenwald in terms of a specific example: Journalist Jorge Ramos, who dared
to ask questions to Donald Trump, who merely wishes to forcibly deport 11 million persons out of the US [2].

It starts as follows:

The Republican presidential candidate leading every poll, Donald Trump, recently unveiled his plan to forcibly deport all 11 million human beings residing in the U.S. without proper documentation, roughly half of whom have children born in the U.S. (and who are thus American citizens). As George Will noted last week, “Trump’s roundup would be about 94 times larger than the wartime internment of 117,000 persons of Japanese descent.” It would require a massive expansion of the most tyrannical police state powers far beyond their already immense post-9/11 explosion. And that’s to say nothing of the incomparably ugly sentiments that Trump’s advocacy of this plan, far before its implementation, is predictably unleashing. 

Yes, indeed. What then happened were three things: Jorge Ramos - an immigrated Mexican and a journalist - tried to question Donald Trump, and was first denied the right to question Trump by Trump and then removed by a Trump bodyguard from the room.

There is a video of this, but I want to step beyond Jorge Ramos - although I think he was fully justified and tried to do good journalism - and discuss the decline of journalism. So I leave that bit to your interests.

I continue with this:

One might think that in a conflict between a journalist removed from a press conference for asking questions and the politician who had him removed, journalists would side with their fellow journalist. Some are. But many American journalists have seized on the incident to denounce Ramos for the crime of having opinions and even suggesting that he’s not really acting as a journalist at all.

Yes, indeed. But next there is this, on "the crime of having opinions":

Here we find, yet again, the enforcement of unwritten, very recent, distinctively corporatized rules of supposed “neutrality” and faux objectivity which all Real Journalists must obey, upon pain of being expelled from the profession. A Good Journalist must pretend they have no opinions, feign utter indifference to the outcome of political debates, never take any sides, be utterly devoid of any human connection to or passion for the issues they cover, and most of all, have no role to play whatsoever in opposing even the most extreme injustices.

Thus: you do not call torture “torture” if the U.S. government falsely denies that it is; you do not say that the chronic shooting of unarmed black citizens by the police is a major problem since not everyone agrees that it is; and you do not object when a major presidential candidate stokes dangerous nativist resentments while demanding mass deportation of millions of people. These are the strictures that have utterly neutered American journalism, drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

Yes, but it seems worse to me than is outlined in the first paragraph, simply because there now also are many "Good Journalists" who do profess right wing opinions, who care about the outcomes of debates, and who always take sides, and are passionate about the issues they cover (namely: Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and many more on Fox News, and indeed also some others on the left, like Rachel Maddow on NBC).

In fact, it seems like this to me. There are now - and since 9/11/2001 - two kinds of "Good Journalists", namely either the Bill O'Reilly kind, who are permitted to spout absolute drivel without any criticism (outside the progressive media), provided it is rightist drivel; or else the Wolf Blitzer kind, who are so totally neutral that they never seem to take any position, but who thereby strongly serve the powers that be; and there is a third kind of "Bad Journalism" (according to the "Good Journalists"), like Glenn Greenwald and - to an extent - Rachel Maddow, who do take positions and speak their minds, while respecting real facts, but who tend to be ignored or discriminated by the first two kinds of journalists, who seem to be the majority in the current USA, simply because they have a moral and intellectual position, which Good Journalists think they should not have (if it is faintly progressive or leftist). [3]

And there is this:

As Jack Shafer documented two years ago, crusading and “activist” journalism is centuries old and has a very noble heritage. The notion that journalists must be beacons of opinion-free, passion-devoid, staid, impotent neutrality is an extremely new one, the byproduct of the increasing corporatization of American journalism. That’s not hard to understand: One of the supreme values of large corporations is fear of offending anyone, particularly those in power, since that’s bad for business.

First, Glenn Greenwald is quite right that "crusading and “activist” journalism is centuries old and has a very noble heritage": Think of Swift or Orwell. And second, the idea that journalists should not have or at least not utter any opinion
is totally false: All journalists have opinions, values, concerns and interests, also
those who pretend they have none.

But third, I do agree with Glenn Greenwald: For the most part American journalism has been "utterly neutered" and this has

drained it of its vitality and core purpose, and ensured that it does little other than serve those who wield the greatest power and have the highest interest in preserving the status quo.

Also, this is a quite frightening development.

2.  China can ride out this crisis. But we’re on course for another crash

The next article is by Seumas Milne on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

It may not yet be the moment to get in supplies of tinned food. That was what Gordon Brown’s former adviser during the 2008 crash, Damian McBride, suggested on Monday as stock markets crashed from Shanghai to New York and $1tn was wiped off the value of shares in one day. But seven years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers brought down the global financial system and plunged half the world into a slump, it’s scarcely alarmist to see the financial panic as the harbinger of a new crisis in a still crippled world economy.

The market gyrations that followed “Black Monday” this week and the 40% drop in the value of Chinese stocks since June have only underlined the fragility of what is supposed to be an international recovery. For all the finger-wagging hubris of western commentators over the fact that the latest mayhem has erupted in China, this is a global firestorm. And after three decades of deregulation punctuated by financial crises and a systemic meltdown, there is every reason to fear more fallout from casino capitalism.

Yes, I quite agree - and no, this is not the "news" I mean to avoid, that gives "explanations" of why stocks are going up or going down.

Also, the main problem with the Western economies has not been solved by Obama, but has been aggravated, for he did not attack the deregulation nor attack the bank managers, and he protected Eric Holder who insisted that he would not go after obviously corrupt extremely rich bankmanagers
because they and their banks are "too big to fail".

And there is this:

China’s room for manoeuvre would certainly be much narrower if it had gone for their full deregulation and privatisation package. But the main drag on the Chinese economy isn’t the failings of its own economic model, but stagnation in the rest of the world. Global trade suffered its largest contraction since 2008 in the first six months of this year, partly as a result of the ongoing crisis in the eurozone. Eight years after the financial crisis erupted in the US, its aftershocks are still being felt across the world.

A dysfunctional model of capitalism, built on deregulation, privatisation and low wages, crashed and burned seven years ago. But the fallout from that crisis is still ricocheting around the world, from Europe to the “emerging economies”, as the attempt to refloat a broken model with cheap credit inflates asset bubbles and share buybacks – or enforce it with austerity – fuels new crises.

Again I agree, including the diagnosis: post 2001 capitalism, and in fact capitalism since Thatcher and Reagan started reforming it for the rich, was "built on deregulation, privatisation and low wages".

Finally, there is this - though I partially disagree with one point:

That’s one reason why the anti-austerity movement and the demand for economic alternatives is growing across Britain, Europe and the US. The elites so evidently don’t know what they’re doing, even as they rake in the spoils. In such a context, calls for large-scale public investment, ownership and quantitative easing for the real economy made by Labour’s leadership frontrunner, Jeremy Corbyn, look far more realistic than the business-as-usual offered by his rivals.

The point I partially disagree with is: "The elites so evidently don’t know what they’re doing, even as they rake in the spoils." I think they do know what they are doing, and that indeed was the point of their campaign since 1979/1980: 
To let the few rich rob as much as possible by deregulations.

For that is what they wanted, and that is also what they achieved. I also partially agree that they did not really know the social consequences of deregulation, but then they also never were - really - interested in the problems of the poor, and were simply out to profit as much as they could, and mostly succeeded.

But this is an interesting article, that I recommend you fully read.

3. Human rights groups face global crackdown 'not seen in a generation'

The next article is by Harriet Sherwood on The Guardian:

This starts as follows - and also see the next item:

Human rights organisations and campaign groups are facing their biggest crackdown in a generation as a wave of countries pass restrictive laws and curtail activity. Almost half the world’s states have implemented controls that affect tens of thousands of organisations across the globe.

Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.

James Savage, of Amnesty International, says: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation.

“There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”

This is a quite long and interesting article, where the outcomes of the "new pieces of legislation" are also presented by country, and indeed there is a "global wave of restrictions". Also, for the monent it seems mostly active in non-European states, and India, China, Russia, Egypt, Uganda, Cambodia, are all mentioned explicitly in the article.

Also, this is a quite serious development: While no one knows precisely how many countries there are, there currently are 206 "total states" and 193 states in the UN, and therefore a total of 60 countries that have passed legislation to inhibit NGOs (i.e. non-governmental organizations), while 96 countries "
have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity" is both quite amazing and disquieting.

Besides, it is not only laws that change (and attribute powers to governments to close, limit or sanction non-governmental organizations):
Restrictive measures are both formal, in the form of legislation, and informal – harassment, intimidation, demonisation, bureaucratic burdens. “Just counting NGO laws doesn’t quite give you the full picture.”
Harriet Sherwood also distinguishes several causes of the NGO crackdown, and here is the third:

The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures – often promoted by the west – that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

This is affecting civil society in the west itself, and has consequences around the world, say campaigners.
I'd say that if "counter-terrorism measures (..) sweep civil society organisations into their embrace" this is generally done deliberately, simply because it could have been easily avoided if that were wanted.

But this is again an important article that I recommend you read completely.

4.  VIDEO: Women’s Equality Day: Whatever Happened to the Equal Rights Amendment?

The next article is by Roisin Davies on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:

Wednesday marks the 95th anniversary of women’s right to vote in the U.S. But let’s not forget that the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee equal rights for women. This video examines why the Equal Rights Amendment, despite having been written in 1923, still hasn’t passed.


     The Equal Right Amendment (NOT a part of US law)

As Bustle notes, “in case you, like many in America, thought that the ERA was already a part of our constitution, I’ve got bad news for you. The simple addendum, which prohibits sexual discrimination for either gender, may have been passed by Congress in 1972, but it failed to be ratified by 35 of the 38 necessary states within 10 years. It was never added, and despite being introduced in every Congressional session since, it still hasn’t been fully ratified.” According to the Equal Rights Coalition, 96 percent of Americans think the Equal Rights Amendment has passed.
I say. And 1972 is 43 years ago, which means that women have generally earned less than men for the same labor for 43 years now, in spite of the ERA that was supposed to stop this.

5. Here's Why No One Cares About Modern Philosophy

The final item for today is Kevin Drum on Mother Jones, and it is here because I am a philosopher. (It is not really a crisis item.)

This starts as follows:

Via someone on the right (I don't remember who, sorry) I learned of a minor tempest over at Vox.com. One of their editors asked a Swedish philosopher, Torbjorn Tannsjo, to write a piece defending the "repugnant conclusion," which Tannsjo describes thusly:

My argument is simple. Most people live lives that are, on net, happy. For them to never exist, then, would be to deny them that happiness. And because I think we have a moral duty to maximize the amount of happiness in the world, that means that we all have an obligation to make the world as populated as can be.
Let me first say something about modern philosophy, as someone who studied it in university (though I was removed thence, briefly before taking my M.A. in it, because I had the temerity to say, in public, as an invited speaker, that I did believe in truth and did not believe in Marxism, both of which were very dangerous positions to defend in the University of Amsterdam - as I found out: I was removed - because that was from 1971-1995 in the hands of the students, and until the late 1980ies most of the students with power were members of the communist party (as they themselves revealed in the 1990ies), and later - from 1985 onwards - also halfly postmodernists):

I would be rather amazed if more than a small minority of those who read me, most of whom will probably have attended some university, knows who is (or were) Quine, or Ramsey, or Bunge, or Sellars, even though all of them are supposed to be "important philosophers" of the 20th Century, and even though most of those whose academic study is philosophy - a very small minority - will know their names (but probably not their works, or only a very small fraction of it, and that probably because their work is "too technical").

Anyway - here is Kevin Drum:

But here's the part I really don't get: Why on earth would anyone take Tannsjo's argument seriously in the first place? The entire thing hinges on the premise that we all have a moral duty to maximize the absolute amount of felt happiness in the universe. If you don't believe that, there's nothing left of his essay.

But virtually no one does believe that. And since Tannsjo never even tries to justify his premise, that makes his entire piece kind of pointless. It would have taken me about five minutes to reject it.

In fact, it is a lot worse:

All of the statements of Tannsjo except "My argument is simple" are false: It is not proven that "Most people live lives that are, on net, happy", nor indeed specified what "happy" means; what would be the case if they did not exist does not itself entail that one "has denied" them "that happiness"; Tannsjo may think what he pleases, but the inference from his - quite uninformed - tastes to a duty of "all" persons is plainly totalitarian; and his implicit inference that with 42 billion people alive "we" would be 6 times happier than with a mere 7 billion (and with 420 billion 60 times etc.) is utterly ridiculous.

Anyway... [4] here is my conclusion on studying philosophy:

I made a grave mistake when I decided I wanted to study philosophy. The reason was that I did not know that "academic philosophy" is a very small field where only very few are making money, which they usually do by writing bullshit that interests no one else, and that is also - mostly quite deservedly - not taken seriously by any serious scientist.

Everybody I met who studied or taught philosophy in the University of Amsterdam was neither a real philosopher nor interested in real philosophy: everyone was interested in getting one of the very few well paying positions that the university
offered (ten times as much as a student, and only 4 - 8 hours "work" per week!) and I met no one who was competent (neither students not staff) and indeed no  one who published, except two (non-Dutch) philosophers. (The Dutch ones said that they considered publishing "vain", but in fact had nothing to say, and no way of saying anything clearly.)

What I should have done was studying mathematics, physics or biology, and taken philosophy - perhaps - as a second study.

Also, there are three other reasons (for the very few, with a real interest in real
philosophy, to whom I belong) why you should not study philosophy:

One. Real philosophy - if you are really intelligent and like reading - is quite simple: there are about 25 books you should read, and that is it (and most "academic philosophers" did not read most of them). Here is a good list - and you can read all of them easily before you're 25 or 30, without doing any formal study of philosophy.

Two. The reason philosophy still is quite important is not real philosophy, but its popular counterpart: ideologies. (Hundreds of millions have been - for example - "Marxists" in the 20th Century, but only a few thousands, possibly a few tenthousands, had much of an idea what Marx really said, and few were interested. Also, they had not much influence: Nearly everything was ideological much rather than philosophical. And you don't need to study philosophy to understand ideology.)

Three. No philosopher (unless he or she also has a degree in physics or mathe- matics) is a real scientist, and few philosophers have the talents to be - really good - real scientists.

Anyway - that is my advice, that is, if your IQ is at least 135, for otherwise it probably will not work anyway: Try a real science, and do philosophy, if you
are seriously interested, only as an extra. And avoid academic philosophers and
academic philosophy, if only because everybody who is a real scientist and has brains does the same. (And it is a waste of time, almost always.)

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] For example in Holland, where I have read NRC Handelsblad for 40 years, from 1970-2010, simply because it was a decent paper, that was ostly oriented towards the higher educated, and that provided decent information.

But I stopped reading it, because by the end of 2010 it had been sold twice, had a Belgian editor whose main claim to fame seems to be his incredible rudeness, and have turned into an amusement paper for "the higher educated" with an average IQ of 105, that serves mostly amusement or lies, so far as I can tell, and doesn't deliver real news (a few items excepted) but real amusement

You may disagree, but I insist that the difference in quality and appeal between the NRC of - say - 1980 and 2010 are enormous, while I also insist that those who got "academic diplomas" since 1985 in Holland have for the most part been deceived by a trashy education, apparently calculated for an average IQ of 105, that also lasted half the time from what it took till 1985 (when education also was worth extremely little, in terms of demands or difficulties).

Indeed, I do not regard the Dutch "universities" (apart from mathematics, physics and chemistry, for which some real talent is needed) real universities. I regard them as "universities", at best, where virtually anyone with an IQ over 100 can get a diploma that is at most half worth of the - also bad - diplomas awarded between 1970 and 1985.

[2] I admit this European is a bit amazed by the popularity of the Trump- phenomenon. But OK... since his kind of racism seems popular now: When will the gentleman propose to send back all the blacks to the places they hail from? Or gas the lot if there are not enough trains? You may be shocked by my questions, but if you are: Why are you not shocked by Trump's proposal to deport 11 million persons? Nearly twice as many as the number of Jews gassed in WW II?

[3] That is: I think I am right in this description, but I must admit that I have not seen much of either Fox, NBC or other main media "news", simply because I know too much about politics and am too intelligent to sit, stare and accept the many lies, cheats, and deceptions these serve to their publics. I tend to switch of main media very quickly, I admit, and indeed I am not a moron.

[4] In case you want to know what is wrong with utilitarianism: See Mill's "Utilitarianism" with my notes.


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