Dec 19, 2016

Crisis: "Fake News", "Kakistocracy" (?!), Spy Coup (?), On Trump's Rallies
Sections                                                                     crisis index

America’s ‘Fake News’: Homegrown, and Far From New
2. Degeneration Nation: It Takes a Village of Idiots to
     Raise a Kakistocracy Like Donald Trump’s

3. A Spy Coup in America?
4. Why President Trump Will Continue Holding Rallies

This is a Nederlog of Monday, December 19, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about a fine article by Chris Hedges on "Fake News" (which he very correctly says is many decades old, and the normal product of what are now the mainstream media); item 2 is about a rather crazy utterly ignorant article by someone who asserts (without any evidence - but who needs evidence in the modern media?!) that we will live in a kakistocracy with Trump; item 3 is about an article by Robert Parry on whether there is a spy coup in the USA: He thinks probably yes, I think probably no (but we are both guessing); and item 4 is about an article by Robert Reich on the question why Trump continues to hold rallies, that he personally rants to: I halfly agree, but believe myself he does so to be able to deal with anyone who opposes him.

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't (until and including 18.xii).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [0]

C. In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. America’s ‘Fake News’: Homegrown, and Far From New

The first item today is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:

This starts as follows:
The media landscape in America is dominated by “fake news.” It has been for decades. This fake news does not emanate from the Kremlin. It is a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry that is skillfully designed and managed by public relations agencies, publicists and communications departments on behalf of individuals, government and corporations to manipulate public opinion. This propaganda industry stages pseudo-events to shape our perception of reality. The public is so awash in these lies, delivered 24 hours a day through electronic devices and print, that viewers and readers can no longer distinguish between truth and fiction.
Yes indeed, although not all of the public is deceived by these lies, though I grant it needs a decent education and a decent brain to do so, and both are
now not common. Also, there is some more to be said about "fake news",
but we will arrive at that later.

The next bit seems also mostly true:
Donald Trump and the racist-conspiracy theorists, generals and billionaires around him inherited and exploited this condition, just as they have inherited and will exploit the destruction of civil liberties and collapse of democratic institutions. Trump did not create this political, moral and intellectual vacuum. It created him. It created a world where fact is interchangeable with opinion, where celebrities have huge megaphones simply because they are celebrities, where information must be entertaining and where we can all believe what we want to believe regardless of truth. A demagogue like Trump is what you get when you turn culture and the press into burlesque. 
Incidentally, a society in which "fact is interchangeable with opinion, where celebrities have huge megaphones simply because they are celebrities, where information must be entertaining and where we can all believe what we want to believe regardless of truth" seems to me a society that will soon be dead.

Then again, it seems also true that those who really believe the above are not the political leaders (other than Trump, to be sure):  These "merely" lie and deceive, without believing their own lies and deceptions.

This is about most of the present journalists, and seems mostly true to me:
Journalists long ago gave up trying to describe an objective world or give a voice to ordinary men and women. They became conditioned to cater to corporate demands. News personalities, who often make millions of dollars a year, became courtiers. They peddle gossip. They promote consumerism and imperialism. They chatter endlessly about polls, strategies, presentation and tactics or play guessing games about upcoming presidential appointments. They fill news holes with trivial, emotionally driven stories that make us feel good about ourselves. They are incapable of genuine reporting. They rely on professional propagandists to frame all discussion and debate.
Yes (apart from some minor points I won't discuss), and indeed it also seems to me as if most of these journalists mostly believe the stories they tell, which they do because they do not - anymore - have the factual knowledge, the factual backgrounds, and the mindsets belonging to these that many journalists had (completely regardless of their political orientation, also) - say - 25 and more years ago.

I may be mistaken, but this is my guess. Here are some facts (that I presume are true):
Only about 15 percent of any newspaper is devoted to news. If you were to remove from that 15 percent the content provided by the public relations industry inside and outside government, news falls to single digits. For broadcast and cable news, the figure for real, independently reported news would hover close to zero.
I say - and incidentally, this also means that the very word "newspaper" has become quite misleading. And while this is about the USA, something similar happened elsewhere, and in Holland e.g. the NRC-Handelsblad, which I read,
mostly with satisfaction, from 1970-2010, was kicked out by me in 2010 because it had far too many amusements and pieces of stupid bullshit, and far too little real news (as they did have the previous 40 years in which I read it).

And for those who accept the axiom that "a democracy needs a free press", most democracies are dead or dying, for the free press is dead, and has been replaced by amusing, flattering, bullshitting, dishonest propaganda sheets.

There is more that is interesting that I skip (I leave this to your interests),
and I arrive at the TV:

The rapid-fire, abbreviated format of television precludes complexities and nuance. Television is about good and evil, black and white, hero and villain. It makes us confuse induced emotions with knowledge. It reinforces the mythic narrative of American virtue and goodness. It pays homage through carefully selected “experts” and “specialists” to the power elites and the reigning ideology. It shuts out, discredits or ridicules all who dissent.

I must start with an admission: I do not have a TV for 46 years now, namely since 1970. And I kicked it out then mostly because of two things: First, I knew by then that watching TV did not teach me anything I did not know (apart from the daily news, that then also was badly reported: the papers then were far better). And second, I was very conscious that very much of what I saw was propaganda of various kinds (also if it was not labeled "advertisement"), and I very much dislike being deceived and lied to.

Also, I do not miss it one bit and never did. And I have explained it several times in Nederlog. Here are four of these explanations, in case you care: November 9, 2007, July 5, 2008 (in Dutch), April 20, 2013, February 17, 2014 and February 7, 2015 (all in English).

I will leave this again to your own interests, and turn to "fake news", that I said above I would say more about:

The 20th century’s cultural and social transformation, E.P. Thompson wrote in his essay “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism,” has turned out to be much more than the embrace of an economic system or the celebration of patriotism. It is, he pointed out, part of a revolutionary reinterpretation of reality. It marks the ascendancy of mass culture and the destruction of genuine culture and genuine intellectual life.

Richard Sennett, in his book “The Fall of the Public Man,” identified the rise of mass culture as one of the prime forces behind what he termed a new “collective personality … generated by a common fantasy.” And the century’s great propagandists would not only agree but would add that those who can manipulate and shape those fantasies determine the directions taken by the “collective personality.”

Yes, indeed, and in fact I think this coincides with the rise of "the a-social media" (that call themselves "social media"), and especially Facebook, that
now seems to cater to 4 billion persons, most of whom are quite ignorant. [2]

For that is indeed completely new: Facebook gave the capacity to publish to everyone who is too stupid to even do html (that seems to be about 95 in a 100, just as less than 1 in a 100 program).

A related bit of utter idiocy is Twitter, on which you can send text to others - but never more than 140 characters a time, so that you will never be able to state a decent argument, state a doubt with evidence, or indeed treat anything that falls outside the scope of 140 characters (around 28 words).

Everybody has e-mail, but the groupminds of the stupid and the ignorant rather avoid using e-mail, for they can do their scolding, denigrations, assholery and sickness within 28 words at the time, and dislike having to read more.

And I am very sorry, but I have been very conscious for over 50 years that my main enemies are stupidity and ignorance, and stupidity and ignorance now can scold (and threaten and demean) 4 billionfold, and seems to do so as well (but I am not on Facebook and avoid it like the very plague, even though I know not all users are ignorant, but I also do not want to be spied upon by anonymous commercial entities, which is how Facebook earns its billions: by spying on its users).

This ends as follows:

Fake news, which already dominates print and television reporting, will define the media under his administration. Those who call out the mendacity of fake news will be vilified and banished. The corporate state created this monstrous propaganda machine and bequeathed it to Trump. He will use it.

I think that is true. For more on the ends Trump will be using it for, see item 4.

2. Degeneration Nation: It Takes a Village of Idiots to Raise a Kakistocracy Like Donald Trump’s

The second item is by Sophia McLennen on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Ever since Donald Trump launched his campaign last year we have searched for the right word to define the sort of government he would lead. Would it be populist or fascist? Would he be a demagogue or a dictator? Would he be the first reality TV president? Would his new administration be an oligarchy, a plutocracy, or a kleptocracy?

Now that he has been elected and he and his minions are busily filling slots in the cabinet and government, we now have an answer to what form of government he will lead.  And the answer is all of the above.

Sorry, but this is utter bullshit - but I also think it cannot be helped, for Sophia McLennen seems to be a fake scientist who teaches the following kind of post- postmodernist bullshit (according to her own site):

Sophia A. McClennen works on the intersections between culture, politics, and society. Her books focus on cultural responses to complex social change, such as the connections between the satire of Stephen Colbert and post 9/11 politics or the exile writing of Ariel Dorfman and dictatorship in 1970s Latin America.

If this is an outline of the "science" you are a professor in then indeed you may expect gross baloney like the above:

You don't do analysis. You don't quote any evidence. You don't refer to any literature of any kind. You just pile together a bunch of contradictory terms that have been bandied about to describe something, and you insist blandly - without any evidence, without any references, without any literature, it seems merely because you are a professor who studies intersections and connections and such - that what you "describe" is all of these, and then you summarize the lot by some shitty term that does say "shit", in Greek.

I say! Here is the shitty Greek term (and below a further explanation that shows that indeed it does say "shit" in Greek: o wow!):

Luckily we have one word that sums it all up: a kakistocracy, which literally means government by the worst element of a society. A kakistocracy is a government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. Trump plans to bring us the worst of both.

Really now? So Trump got together both "the least qualified" and "the most unprincipled"? Many of whom are billionaires or generals? I am sorry, but this is just more bullshit.

First of all, the people gathered by Trump are not my kind of people, and indeed do not seem to be McLennen's kind of people, but they seem to me to be rather qualified in making money (as billionaires) and/or rather qualified in getting power (as generals). Also, these people are not unprincipled: They are neofascists in the following sense:

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

To arrive at that definition, you need to know a lot about politics, but I say the above definition (which is my own) does provide a good explanation of the
real thinking of both Trump and many of those he nominated to his cabinet.

But not according to the kakistocratically washed mind of Sophia McLennen, who - again - doesn't quote philosophers, sociologists, political scientists, or econonomists, but a satirist and a poet, both from the 19th Century:

The word’s first known appearance was in 1829 in “The Misfortunes of Elphin,” written by the English satirical writer Thomas Love Peacock. In the United States the word is first recorded from American poet James Russell Lowell, who wrote in a letter in 1876: “Is ours a government of the people, by the people, for the people, or a kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?”

Lowell nails our current situation just right. We are indeed on the verge of a government for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools.
So you see: A poet in 1876 - a mere 140 years ago - "nails our current situation just right". And this is from near the end of this - it seems to me: totally ignorant - article:

The word kakistocracy comes to us from Greek. Kakistos means “worst,” which is superlative of kakos — “bad” — and if it sounds like shit, that’s because it is.

Kakist[r]ocracy is simply the best umbrella term for the form of government we are heading into. It aptly combines the realities of a team that represents nepotism, oligarchy, plutocracy, kleptocracy, demagoguery, alt-right values and a disturbing tendency toward fascist white nationalism.

I guess Ms McLennen doesn't know any philosophy, any sociology, any economics, any political science or any economy: she knows some poetry and
there she learned that "
[k]akist[r]ocracy" (with her own spelling mistake, but corrected) "is simply the best umbrella term for the form of government we are heading into".

What extraordinarily pretentious complete and utter bullshit she dares to deliver!

3. A Spy Coup in America?

The third item is b
y Robert Parry on Consortiumnews:

This starts as follows:

As Official Washington’s latest “group think” solidifies into certainty – that Russia used hacked Democratic emails to help elect Donald Trump – something entirely different may be afoot: a months-long effort by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to determine who becomes the next president.

I was told by a well-placed intelligence source some months ago that senior leaders of the Obama administration’s intelligence agencies – from the CIA to the FBI – were deeply concerned about either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump ascending to the presidency. And, it’s true that intelligence officials often come to see themselves as the stewards of America’s fundamental interests, sometimes needing to protect the country from dangerous passions of the public or from inept or corrupt political leaders.

I say, for I am a little bit amazed by this. Indeed I don't agree with it, but it will take some trouble to explain this.

First about "Official Washington’s latest “group think”". This is and isn't true (it seems to me), for it depends on who you mean by "Official Washington" and also on what you think "group think" is.

I start with the latter, and take this from my Philosophical Dictionary:


Groupthinking: The kind of thinking, feeling, valueing and desiring that keeps human social groups together.

Much of the thinking that goes into groupthinking is totalitarian in principle, and is made up of principles based on wishful thinking of the following kind:

Usually the members of groups are hardly aware that their membership is to a large extent emotionally and intellectually based on principles such as the above, even though it is very easy to see these principles at work in the mental make-up or the behavior of members of other groups - political parties, religious organizations, soccer supporters, but also firms, schools, universities etc., for one way the human animal is social is by actively belonging to groups and by supporting the ideas, ideals, morals and practices that constitute, regulate or support these groups.

Also, it is noteworthy that the above principles involved in most group-thinking are relatively innocuous, and that most groups also practice such principles as

  • Whoever does not belong to Our Group is less good (perfect, humane, religiously or racially proper) than whoever does
  • Whoever opposes Our Group, Our Leaders, Our Ideology or Our Faith is, therefore and thereby, morally or humanly or intellectually inferior
  • Whoever does not conform to the practices and principles current in Our Group is immoral or insane

Most groupthinking involves prejudice of all kinds, and the best excuse for this seems to be that, since human beings are social animals, there is an instinctual motivation to wish to belong to and to support a human group.


Clearly, for me groupthinking is shared by all groups, and indeed many groups also turn totalitarian (in several possible ways), especially if they are opposed by other groups.

So in fact I do not think this is special to "Official Washington", whatever that is. (And I don't know in what sense Parry uses it.)

Second, I think it is rather unlikely that "Russia used hacked Democratic emails to help elect Donald Trump", mostly for the reasons given by former leading NSA-officials, namely here.

And third, I don't have much belief that there is "a months-long effort by elements of the U.S. intelligence community to determine who becomes the next president".

Indeed something of this may be true, but the following seems implausible to me:

However, over the past few weeks, the U.S. intelligence community, led by CIA Director Brennan and seconded by FBI Director Comey, has tried to delegitimize Trump by using leaks to the mainstream U.S. news media to pin the release of the DNC and Podesta emails on Russia and claiming that Russian President Vladimir Putin was personally trying to put Trump into the White House.

This remarkable series of assessments from the CIA – now endorsed by the leadership of the FBI – come on the eve of the Electoral College members assembling to cast their formal votes to determine who becomes the new U.S. president.

Two reasons why I believe this is implausible are that I have also repeatedly read that Comey tried to deligitimize Clinton (indeed, that seems to be Hillary Clinton's idea, and she is by far not the only one) while I think any attempt to influence the Electoral College so that it will not accept Trump will be almost certainly unsuccessful and besides: none of the above comes with any evidence.

To be sure: I am guessing but Robert Parry is also guessing. There is a lot more on Craig Murray and Wikileaks in Parry's article, which I leave to your interests.

The article ends as follows:

It would be a smart play, reminiscent of the convoluted spy tales of John LeCarré, if U.S. intelligence officials sought to cover their own tracks by shifting suspicions onto the Russians.

But just the suspicion of the CIA joining the FBI and possibly other U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in the American people’s choice of a president would cause President Harry Truman, who launched the CIA with prohibitions against it engaging in domestic activities, and Sen. Frank Church, who investigated the CIA’s abuses, to spin in their graves.

I agree with that, though in fact I think it myself less likely that the CIA and the FBI did "intervene in the American people’s choice of a president", and that not because they are not capable of it, but because it seems they were quite happy with Obama like they were quite happy with Bush Jr., while Trump is mostly an unknown (politically) for them, who was widely expected not to win the presidency.

4. Why President Trump Will Continue Holding Rallies

The fourth and last item today is by Robert Reich on his site:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump has just finished the last of his nine post-election “thank you tour” rallies. Why did he do them? And why is he planning further rallies after he becomes president?

This is a good question, or at least that's what I think, for I have asked myself the same question, and indeed especially the last one. And I have arrived at an answer that differs some - it seems - from Robert Reich's.

But first here are some clues, according to Reich:

One clue is that Trump conducted them only in the states he won. And most attendees appeared to have voted for him – overwhelmingly white, and many wearing Trump hats and T-shirts. When warm-up speakers asked how many had previously attended a Trump rally, most hands went up.

A second clue is that rather than urge followers to bury the hatchet, Trump wound them up. “It’s a movement,” he said in Mobile, playfully telling the crowd that in the run-up to the election, “You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall?’ ‘We want the wall!’ Screaming, ‘Prison!’ ‘Prison!’ ‘Lock her up!’ I mean, you were going crazy. You were nasty and mean and vicious.” He called his followers “wild beasts.”

A third clue: Rather than shift from campaigning to governing, Trump’s post-election rallies were almost identical to the rallies he held when he was a candidate – the same format, identical pledges (“We will build a great wall!”), and same condemnations of the “dishonest” media. They also elicited many of the same audience responses, such as “Lock her up! Lock her up!”

Yes indeed. But why would Trump want to continue rallies of people he himself calls "wild beasts"? That he directs in person? Here is Reich's answer:

Trump vows to continue these rallies after he becomes president. As he told the crowd in Mobile, “They’re saying, ‘As president, he shouldn’t be doing rallies.’ But I think we should, right? We’ve done everything else the opposite. This is the way you get an honest word out.”

“Get an honest word out?” There’s the real tipoff.

Like his non-stop tweets, Trump’s purpose in holding these rallies is to connect directly with a large and enthusiastic base of followers who will believe what he says – and thereby reject facts from mainstream media, policy analysts, government agencies that collect data, and the scientific community. 

No, I don't think so. I think that the reason Trump wants to keep being a demagogue who keeps assembling huge rallies of his supporters, is that he
can direct his supporters
(indirectly, of course) to do the things he wants to
see done, such as shutting op the non-mainstream media or professors and intellectuals who protest Trump.

For clearly the people who wildly support Trump will keep supporting him whether they can see him live or not, but they may be far more difficult to
move as a group
if they are addressed by Trump on their individual TVs in their individual homes. But this will be rather different if they are standing in an enthusiastic group of hundreds or of thousands, who get instructed that this magazine or that individual "is very displeasing" to Trump Himself, by Himself.

I think that is the reason Trump will keep being his own demagogue who stands live in front of his own supporters: These are his army of - in Trump's own words - "wild beasts", and they are much easier to manipulate live and as a group.

Here is Robert Reich's ending, which I split up in two parts. First, there is this:

A democracy depends on truth. Trump’s claims that the murder rate is soaring may elicit support for policies such as harsher policing and sentencing – the opposite of what we need. His assertions that he won by a landslide may give him a mandate he doesn’t deserve. His claims of “massive voter fraud” could legitimize further efforts to suppress votes through rigid ID and other requirements.
In short, the rallies and tweets give Trump an unprecedented platform for telling Big Lies without fear of contradiction – and therefore for advancing whatever agenda he wishes.

Yes, I agree to all of that, but this does not really answer the question why Trump wants to continue with his live rallies, directed by himself, simply because he can reach far more people by TV, and especially as a president.

Here is the last bit of Reich:

It’s no coincidence that Trump continues to denigrate the media, and hasn’t held a news conference since July.

A president intent on developing a base of enthusiastic supporters who believe boldface lies poses a clear threat to American democracy. This is how tyranny begins.

As I have said, my answer is a bit different: I think Trump wants to continue his live meetings with thousands of his supporters because he can direct them - indirectly, of course, as he knows very well how to do - to DO the things he likes to see done.

But I agree that this "is how tyranny begins".

[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"(really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[1] I am saying this not because I want to offend but because I want to explain, and my own explanatory definition of neofascism is this:
Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

Also, I am rather certain that most (not: all) of those who style themselved as "neoliberals" in fact are neofascists as defined (even though they probably do not like the term).

And this is fascism as I defined it:
Fascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with centralized authority and a dictator, that suppresses the opposition through propaganda, censorship and terror, that propounds an ethics founded on discipline, virility, and collectivism, that has a politics that is totalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-equality, and anti-Marxist, that is also authoritarian, rightwing and nationalistic, and often racist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy, b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
See the following if you are interested: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions. (This lists 22 definitions of the term "fascism", and critically reflects on them.)

[2] I am sorry, but I am not ignorant. (I am an M.A. in psychology who graduated with an average of 9,3 out of 10 maximal, which is very rare; with a B.A. in philosophy with an average of an 8+, also very rare, and was denied the legal right of taking my M.A. in philosophy briefly before taking it because I had publicly spoken the truth about the completely incompetent parasites who pretended to teach me philosophy. Also, I was ill for all but three months of my studies.)

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