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Nederlog

Jun 18, 2016

Crisis: "Terrorism", 1.1 Million Documents, CIA Tortures, Commercialized Elections
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Introduction

1.
Why Is the Killer of British MP Jo Cox Not Being Called a
     “Terrorist”?

2. NYPD Surveillance Unveiled: City Claims to Lose Docs
     on 1960s Radicals, Then Finds 1 Million Records

3. Latest CIA Torture Docs Show "Evidence of War
     Crimes" & Level of Brutality That Even Shocked Bush

4. Commercializing Elections to Destroy Our Democracy

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, June 18, 2016.

This is a crisis log. There are 4 items with 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the meaning of "terrorist", and I don't quite agree with Glenn Greenwald; item 2 is about the finding of over 1 million documents about things the New York Police Department researched 45 and more years ago (and I say it is important, at least if it is delivered to "the public" in a reasonably complete state), simply because nearly all the news about what governments really do is incomplete, false or propaganda; item 3 is about the CIA tortures (which were and are illegal, but the government just doesn't want to prosecute, rather like it also just doesn't want to prosecute rich bank managers for breaking the laws); and item 4 is about how democracy in the USA is mostly dead, except for the intelligent minorities that are willing to give themselves considerable trouble.

Also, I should say that I will very probably publish "On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions" tomorrow.

1. Why Is the Killer of British MP Jo Cox Not Being Called a “Terrorist”?

The first item today is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:
British Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered yesterday. Although the motive is not yet proven, there is mounting evidence that the detained suspect, 52-year-old white male Thomas Mair, was motivated by political ideology. Cox was an outspoken advocate for refugees. At least two witnesses say Mair, as he carried out the attack, yelled “Britain First,” the name of a virulently right-wing anti-immigrant party. He has years of affiliation with neo-Nazi groups: what Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “a long history with white nationalism.” The U.K. is in the midst of a bitter and virulent debate about whether to exit the EU — Cox opposed that — and much of the pro-Brexit case centers on fear-mongering over immigrants.

Despite all of this, it’s virtually impossible to find any media outlet calling the attacker a “terrorist” or even suggesting that it might be “terrorism.” To the contrary, the suspected killer — overnight — has been alternatively described as a gentle soul or a mentally ill “loner”:

Yes, indeed.

By now I would say - and quite a few with me - that the reasons to call one man "a terrorist" and another man "an ill loner" are "obvious": Those immediately identified as "terrorists" are Muslims or black; those not identified as "terrorists" even if they do the same or worse as "terrorists" do, are not Muslims and white.

I wrote "obvious" between quotes because it is quite ambiguous: It is clearly true if one speaks of the pattern the main media follow, but it also is not at all a rational or reasonable pattern.

Here is Glenn Greenwald's explanation:

The difference is obvious: Timms’s attacker was a Muslim of Bangladeshi descent, while Cox’s alleged killer … is not. As I’ve written repeatedly, the word “terrorism” has no real concrete meaning and certainly no consistent application. In the West, functionally speaking, it’s now a propaganda term with little meaning other than “a Muslim who engages in violence against Westerners or their allies.” It’s even used for Muslims who attack soldiers of an army occupying their country.
Clearly, I agree with Glenn Greenwald's basic explanation. But I should add (as I've also written repeatedly) that I do not agree that "the word “terrorism” has no real concrete meaning" (bolding added), even though I agree again that it has "certainly no consistent application".

This is of some importance, so I explain my point again.

To start with, by "terrorism" I mean this: Terrorism is an
attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder, directed especially at civilians.

One might add that the civilians as a rule have no connection to what the terrorists call their justification for their terror, but in any case I think the given definition is roughly the "
real concrete meaning" of what most people consider terrorism is like (though I agree again that different people will call different events "terrorism").

And I also think that this fundamental agreement on the core meaning of "terrorism" - it is violence and murder directed at civilians who have nothing to
do with what the terrorists are against - is what is behind the imputation of "terrorism" (and not another term) to some by the media, and not to others (who do the same or worse).

So to this extent I disagree with Glenn Greenwald: I think the term "terrorism" has a core meaning -
violence and murder directed at civilians who have nothing to do with what the terrorists are for or against - and it is this core meaning that motivates its use.

I agree with Greenwald on the reasons for its application, which are in fact discriminatory (Muslims or blacks are far more often accused of being terrorists than whites and non-muslims).

Then again, I also have a (partial) explanation for this fact, that I do not know Glenn Greenwald's opinions about:

It seems to me that one important reason to call some terrorists and others, who do quite similar things, not terrorists (but e.g. mentally ill loners), is a totalitarian kind of political correctness, that insists on denying real individual motives, and that "explains" everything someone does in terms of his evidently belonging to some large group - black, Muslim etc. - to which millions belong.

In any case, my explanation why some people are called terrorists and others not (although they do the same kinds of things as those accused of terrorism do) is that (i) terrorism does have a core meaning that is very ugly (for it accuses one of violence and murder against people who don't have anything to do with whatever crimes the terrorists tried to avenge; and (ii) it is applied or denied to people depending on whether these people belong to some large group of people (that the accusers of terrorism generally do not belong to).


2.
NYPD Surveillance Unveiled: City Claims to Lose Docs on 1960s Radicals, Then Finds 1 Million Records  

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
There has been a major break in the decade-long fight to unveil records related to the New York City Police Department’s surveillance of political organizations in the 1960s and 1970s. In recent years, the NYPD has come under fire for spying on Muslim communities and the Occupy Wall Street movement. But decades ago, the NYPD spied extensively on political organizations, including the Young Lords, a radical group founded by Puerto Ricans modeled on the Black Panther Party. The Young Lords staged their first action in July 1969 in an effort to force the City of New York to increase garbage pickups in East Harlem. They would go on to inspire activists around the country as they occupied churches and hospitals in an attempt to open the spaces to community projects. Among their leaders was Democracy Now! co-host Juan González. We speak with Baruch College professor Johanna Fernández, who has fought for a decade to obtain records related to the NYPD’s surveillance of the group. Last month, the city claimed it had lost the records. But this week its municipal archive said it had found more than 520 boxes, or about 1.1 million pages, apparently containing the complete remaining records. We’re also joined by Fernández’s attorney, Gideon Oliver.
I say - and I also know that (while I can remember lots of things about 1969 and 1970) this is over 45 years ago, and is therefore only possibly remembered well by people who are at least 60. Even so, I will argue these historical documents are (or may be) quite important right now.

First, there is this:
AMY GOODMAN: (...)The significance, Gideon Oliver, of these documents that have been found in Queens?

GIDEON OLIVER: Can’t be understated. I mean, this is the entire trove of records of the NYPD’s political surveillance operations between 1955 and 1972. So we’re talking about not just records of surveillance of the Young Lords and Juan, but also of surveillance of the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the antiwar movement in New York City. (...) So, the fact that these documents not only have now been discovered, but can be made available to the public, is just extraordinary.

The point here is especially that there are about 1.1 million pages that now have been refound, and that seem to cover the very extensive police interests in very many radical groups of the period between 1955 and 1972.

Next, there is this:

JOHANNA FERNÁNDEZ: (..) So there’s a whole section on that. There is an entire section of boxes on the Columbia strike of 1968, but also activities at Columbia in 1972. The Black Panther Party is identified by name and is one of the only organizations that is identified fully by name, along with the NOI. I imagine that there is information here about the murder of Malcolm X. And so, these records are really going to transform our understanding and critique of the parameters of allowable conduct on the part of the police.

I agree, but should add that it is not yet known (to the best of my knowledge)
in what state these 1.1 million pages will be made available to the public.

Finally, there is this:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, you know, it’s—I think it’s great that they’ve been found. And as you said, it’s going to be a treasure trove for the historians to go back and recreate the history. The problem with these abuses is that it always takes decades to uncover them. And in the meanwhile, the damage has been done to the activists and the dissidents that were involved in these movements. And it’s almost as if the society never learns, that the abuses just keep on being repeated a generation or two generations later.

Yes precisely, and that is the reason these records (provided that they are
rendered to the public mostly completely, which I do not know) are (or may be) quite important: Because "
it always takes decades to uncover them" and because the news that people are told when things are happening is never complete and is often (partially) false or misleading.

3. Latest CIA Torture Docs Show "Evidence of War Crimes" & Level of Brutality That Even Shocked Bush

This is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:
This starts as follows:
Shocking new details have been made public about the CIA’s torture program as the agency has declassified dozens of once-secret documents. A portion of the new documents deal with a prisoner named Gul Rahman, who froze to death at a secret CIA prison in 2002. Rahman’s family is now suing CIA-contracted psychologists James Mitchell and John "Bruce" Jessen, who helped design the U.S. torture program. The new records also show a prisoner who was waterboarded 83 times was likely willing to cooperate with interrogators before the torture. The account from medical personnel who helped with the first waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah deals a major blow to the CIA’s insistence it gained crucial information through torture. Zubaydah said he made up fake terrorist plots in order to stop the abuse.
This is here because I am much against torture; because the USA illegally tortured people for years; and because I think the USA should prosecute
those who organized and did the tortures (though I agree that so far the
chances that the torturers will be legally prosecuted are quite small).

First, there is this specification of what the CIA's torture program really was like:

DROR LADIN: I mean, we found so much more evidence of what everyone already knows, which is that the CIA torture program was not at all some scientific method of getting information from bad people who would only give it up under torture. But instead it was an exercise in brutality against people who the CIA didn’t know whether they had information, whether they didn’t have information, and where the only answer was more torture whenever they didn’t get the answers they wanted.
I agree that basically the tortures the CIA engaged in were "an exercise in brutality" and that torturing people was and is forbidden, but I also should add that I think torturing people should always be illegal.

This doesn't mean it may never be resorted to - consider the imaginary case of a plane with hundred six year olds on which you know someone whom you have arrested has planted a bomb, and you have one hour to find it - but it does mean that it should be illegal also in that case.

Next, there is this about the two psychologists who organized the tortures, and were paid $81 million dollars for it, and about the grounds to torture someone to death:

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the role of psychologists in this? What do the documents show?

DROR LADIN: I mean, the role of psychologists is horrifying. So we represent also in another lawsuit Gul Rahman’s family over his death under torture. And these documents now reveal why he was singled out for such brutality. And it’s because of this psychological theory that they could identify someone who was a sophisticated resister, and then deploy this escalating set of tortures in order to break him. And when you now have these reports, we can see why they thought he was such a sophisticated resister. And this is what it is: He complained about the violations of his human rights. He complained about the poor treatment.
I agree the roles of the psychologists were "horrifying", which is also part of the reason the two of them got $81 million dollars, to the best of my knowledge. And I think it is quite interesting and very bitter that the CIA tortured someone to death simply because he "complained about the violations of his human rights".

Finally, this is what is really horrifying about it:

DROR LADIN: I mean, that’s the thing that is horrifying about this, is that these are war crimes. This is evidence of war crimes. And yet no one’s been prosecuted. No senior official has ever been prosecuted. The ACLU can’t prosecute people. We have a damages lawsuit on behalf of the victims. But the Department of Justice, you know, needs to prosecute people. Human Rights Watch just called—you know, renewed its call for prosecutions based on these new documents. It’s something we’ve long said. But the government has to actually want to do it. And that’s a problem.
Yes, indeed - but we can say quite specifically who was most responsible for not prosecuting the torturers of the CIA under Obama: Eric Holder, the same man who refused to prosecute any of the bankers (and who headed the DOJ under Obama).

But yes: "
the [American] government has to actually want to" keep the laws it
has sworn to uphold, and it simply doesn't want to, for about 15 years now, also.

4. Commercializing Elections to Destroy Our Democracy

This is by Ralph Nader on his site:
This starts as follows:

Our political economy – a wonderfully embracing phrase much used a century ago – has three main components: The electoral/governmental powers, the marketplace, and the civil society, which is composed of we the citizens.

It is well known that when “we the people” get lax about our consumer rights and our voting choices, both the companies and the politicians turn their backs on us and look out for themselves and their fat-cat donors. The civil society’s energy or apathy has a profound role in shaping how the other two sectors function, and can either safeguard our democracy or drive it into the ground.

All this is by way of saying that increasingly commercializing our elections every four years is devastating to the freedom and justice produced by a functioning democratic society. Our presidential and congressional elections this year represent a commercial conglomerate profit center.

I agree, although I'd say America's "political economy" is made up by the government, the economy, the political organizations and "the public", in whose names the other named entities act, and who have to pay taxes for
that privilege.

And I also add two hypotheses: (1) there has been an enormous increase in
political propaganda since 1980, and (2) much of this was directed against "the public"'s intelligent knowledge of the real things that the government, the rich CEOs and the political organizations did.

Instead of informing "the public" about what their governments (etc.) did for them, the public was given propaganda, that was at least partially false, that
left out a lot, and that basically gave "the public" the wrong ideas about much that was done, with their money, supposedly in their interests.

More specifically, what has been happening since the 1980s (or before) was this (and especially since 2010, when the Supreme Court opened the gates
for the super PACs):

There are the corporate Super PACs and the billionaire patrons who manipulate their sponsored candidates, who in turn make explicit or implicit promises to their paymasters to keep the money flowing into their campaigns. The corporate mass media thrives on the high ratings generated by the mud fights (recall the Republican presidential primary led by Trump). The media moguls charge high advertising rates and make more profits than ever from elections.

Taken together, commercializing elections means that everything is for sale – unless you opt out Bernie Sanders style and refuse corporate PAC contributions and super-rich funding.

When elections are for sale, you know who is most likely to win the auctions. You know how much less your votes and your views count. You know how cleverly sleazy will be the flattery that politicians send your way so as to obscure who really owns them.

Yes, I think Ralp Nader is correct that the elections are (mostly) for sale,
and are directed by commercial interests and profits, much rather than by honesty and truth.

Here is the outcome of the commercialization of "politics" in the USA:

Whether by the mass media interview shows or on the daily campaign trail, citizen activists and citizen group leaders are rarely asked for their views, for their experience, for their horizons as to what is long overdue and possible.

But the bloviating pundits are regularly featured on the political talk shows; so are the garrulous political consultants to the candidates. But the bedrock of our democratic potential—the real experts, the movers and shakers, who start and continue decade after decade the difficult march toward a better society—are treated by the media bookers as off-limits or as interlopers.

Yes, indeed - but this also means that democracy is dead or dying:

There is no real democracy without real consultations with people who really speak for the public's real interests, and these people have been mostly excluded even from talking to the public by the main media.

I think it is still possible to get "the real news", but I also think that by now this holds only for an intelligent minority, who also are willing to take considerable trouble. [1]

Unfortunately, I don't think the present situation can be undone, except by a collapse of the economy.

---------------------

Note

[1] For example: I do read over 30 sites every day simply to have a somewhat fair somewhat informed idea about "the news", and I do so in two or three languages (of the eight I read effortlessly), though mostly in English, and of the over 30 sites I daily check only two or three are from the main media (and these get rarely listed in Nederlog, indeed because of - what I see as - their propaganda).


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