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Monday, December 18, 2017

Crisis: About Chris Hedges, CDC Censorship, Trump's Era, On Bill Moyers, On Bullying
 
Sections                                                     crisis index
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 18, 2017
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Monday
, December 18, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and will continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from December 18, 2017
1. The Permanent Lie, Our Deadliest Threat
2. Alarm Raised Over Report of Censorship at Health Agency
3. Why the Trump Era Won’t Pass Without Serious Damage to
     America

4. Veteran Journalist Bill Moyers Announces Site Closure
5. How America’s militaristic, capitalist culture led to Trump
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. The Permanent Lie, Our Deadliest Threat

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The most ominous danger we face does not come from the eradication of free speech through the obliteration of net neutrality or through Google algorithms that steer people away from dissident, left-wing, progressive or anti-war sites. It does not come from a tax bill that abandons all pretense of fiscal responsibility to enrich corporations and oligarchs and prepares the way to dismantle programs such as Social Security. It does not come from the opening of public land to the mining and fossil fuel industry, the acceleration of ecocide by demolishing environmental regulations, or the destruction of public education. It does not come from the squandering of federal dollars on a bloated military as the country collapses or the use of the systems of domestic security to criminalize dissent. The most ominous danger we face comes from the marginalization and destruction of institutions, including the courts, academia, legislative bodies, cultural organizations and the press, that once ensured that civil discourse was rooted in reality and fact, helped us distinguish lies from truth and facilitated justice.
Professor M.A. Brandt (who still seems alive) told his audience during the public opening of the "University" of Amsterdam, in August 1978, that my father and mother were sick liars when they said there truly had been a Holocause, and that my father and mother were sick liars when they told that both my father and his father had truly been locked up in Nazi concentration camps, for he told his audience the following, that is literally translated:
"Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist"
This logically implies the sick fascistic totalitarian lies that "Everybody knows" that it cannot be possibly true that there was a Holocause [2]; that it cannot be possibly true that there were Nazi concentration camps, or even that Holland had truly been occupied by the Germans between 1940 and 1945: All utter baloney according to professor M.A. Brandt, historian.

For
"Everybody knows that truth does NOT exist", according to Brandt.

I leave this for now, except for adding that (i) this statement that "Everybody knows that truth does not exist" was the official ideology of the "University" of Amsterdam at least during its communist years (from 1971 till 1983) and its postmodern years (from 1984 till 1995); that (ii) this was so precisely because it served the interests of many students in the "University" of Amsterdam, who had been given the formal majority in each and every Dutch university in 1971 (which was a unique situation in the whole world); that (iii) I was one of the circa 5% (!!) of the students who opposed this; and that (iv) to show me their thanks and the absolute nature of their tremendous power in Amsterdam (a) I was first terrorized - while ill, living with an also ill wife - for three years in the student flat in which we had to live, while (b) I was next terrorized - while ill - for three and half years by the illegal soft and hard drugsdealers who were mayor Van Thijn's very good personal friends, while also (c) I was - still ill - also denied the legal right of taking my M.A. in philosophy from the "University" of Amsterdam very briefly before taking it, because I had criticized the incompetent parasites who "taught" me philosophy: This was forbidden both by "the philosophers" of the UvA (none whom ever published anything, while receiving millions) and it was forbidden by the fascist terrorists who functioned as the Board of Directors of the "University" of Amsterdam.

Here is more by Chris Hedges:
Donald Trump and today’s Republican Party represent the last stage in the emergence of corporate totalitarianism. Pillage and oppression are justified by the permanent lie. The permanent lie is different from the falsehoods and half-truths uttered by politicians such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The common political lie these politicians employed was not designed to cancel out reality.
(...)
The permanent lie is not circumscribed by reality. It is perpetuated even in the face of overwhelming evidence that discredits it. It is irrational. Those who speak in the language of truth and fact are attacked as liars, traitors and purveyors of “fake news.” They are banished from the public sphere once totalitarian elites accrue sufficient power, a power now granted to them with the revoking of net neutrality.
Yes and no, but the reasons for my (also) saying no are somewhat technical: I do not believe in a "permanent lie" of the kind Hedges may believe in, and indeed I do not because of the ways in which humans learn language, which very strongly presupposes some understanding of the facts in front of one's nose.

People do not tell their young children "See, this is a dinky toy. You can smell it, taste it, touch it, and see it. But really it does not exist. It simply isn't there: you are imagining things." And the result of lying a lot by people who have you in their power does not lead to a quasi-reality of (supposed) lies opposed to a reality of
(supposed) truths, but into confusion and uncertainty.

In fact, something like this happens (and this is also quted by Chris Hedges):
“The result of a consistent and total substitution of lies for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed,” Hannah Arendt wrote in “The Origins of Totalitarianism.”
I mostly agree.

Next, there is this, with which I mostly disagree, indeed in part because it is too negative, and in part because it seems to underestimate (!!) both the greed and the utter dishonesty of those trying to popularize some form of totalitarianism:

The permanent lie is the apotheosis of totalitarianism. It no longer matters what is true. It matters only what is “correct.” (...)
They hold reality, including science and the rule of law, in contempt. They seek to banish those who live in a reality-based world defined by intellectual and moral autonomy. Totalitarian rule always elevates the brutal and the stupid. These reigning idiots have no genuine political philosophy or goals. They use clichés and slogans, most of which are absurd and contradictory, to justify their greed and lust for power.
First, what is "totalitarianism"? One can't believe the very rapidly disintegrating Wikipedia anymore (but check it out if you want to) [3] but the proper definition of totalitarianism is this (and it is mine, and is based on very extensive reading):
Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.
Note that this does not itself have anything to do with lying, deceiving, or falsifying (although I agree they usually are involved indirectly). What matters is simply an ideology or religion with extremist pretensions about what it's followers are allowed to do with those who disagree with it: These may be killed or locked up, simply because they disagree.

Second, not only does totalitarianism itself not have much to do with lying etc. (that is: totalitarianism may simply be believed by its followers) but it also does (usually) not have much to do with an opposition between "
a reality-based world" and one which is not thus based (for in fact most totalitarians insist their ideology implies it alone is true).

Third, I agree mostly with the rest: Totalitarians often are "
brutal and (..) stupid"; totalitarians usually strongly rely on "clichés and slogans"; indeed many of these tend to be "absurd and contradictory"; and totalitarianism in fact tends to justify the "greed and lust for power" of the leaders of the totalitarians.

But I also think that totalitarians usually have some "
genuine political philosophy or goals", and namely that their own species of totalitarianism is both valid and the final truth.

Then there is this, which happens to be by a Dutch psychiatrist. And I am sorry, but I disagree with this as well (and I am - i.a. - a psychologist who disbelieves in the current psychiatry):
“The venal political figures need not even comprehend the social and political consequences of their behavior,” psychiatrist Joost A.M. Meerloo wrote in “The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing.” “They are compelled not by ideological belief, no matter how much they may rationalize to convince themselves they are, but by the distortions of their own personalities. They are not motivated by their advertised urge to serve their country or mankind, but rather by an overwhelming need and compulsion to satisfy the cravings of their own pathological character structures. The ideologies they spout are not real goals; they are the cynical devices by which these sick men hope to achieve some personal sense of worth and power. Subtle inner lies seduce them into going from bad to worse. Defensive self-deception, arrested insight, evasion of emotional identification with others, degradation of empathy—the mind has many defense mechanisms with which to blind the conscience.”
How does Joost Meerloo know that what moves totalitarians or rich men is not their "ideological belief" (stupid, inconsistent and made up mostly of wishful thinking as this may be) but in fact is made up from "the distortions of their own personalities" (or "the cravings of their own pathological character structures")?!

I do not know. But being a psychologist I do know that real mental illness is not common, while - also being a philosopher - I know that all ideologies, and indeed the greatest part of most philosophies, are not true.

In brief, I strongly prefer to maintain that those I disagree with are usually not mad and may very well be (privately, at least) quite convinced of "the truth" of the ideology they happen to believe in, indeed also in part because the ideologies one does believe in normally are both familiar, not difficult, and rather amenable to one's own personal interests.

This does not mean that I may not think that they are dishonest, ignorant, immoral or unethical, but then again none of these - very ordinary(!) - shortcomings coincides with some state of personal madness.

Finally, here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities,” Voltaire warned.
In fact, when I had a site I very soon - I think already in 1997 - opened it with Voltaire's
"If we believe in absurdities,
  we shall commit atrocities."
I take it this is translated from precisely the same French source as the translation I use (and indeed Hedges' translation may be more correct - though indeed I don't know).

But I do like Chris Hedges, even if I do not quite agree with them, because he writes well, he is interesting, he usually makes a lot of sense, and he also is a really brave man.

And if I differ with him about truth, as I do in the above, this is in part because I am a real philosopher, and in part because my battle with the "university" of Amsterdam started now over 40 years ago.


2. Alarm Raised Over Report of Censorship at Health Agency

This article is by Mike Stobbe on Truthdig and originally on Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Health leaders say they are alarmed about a report that officials at the nation’s top public health agency are being told not to use certain words or phrases in official budget documents, including “fetus,” ”transgender” and “science-based.”

The health community was reacting to a story in The Washington Post published late Friday citing an anonymous source who said the prohibition was made at a recent meeting of senior budget officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven words and phrases — “diversity,” ”entitlement,” ”fetus,” transgender,” ”vulnerable,” ”evidence-based” and “science-based” — were not to be used in documents that are to be circulated within the federal government and Congress in preparation of the next presidential budget proposal, the paper reported.

Yes indeed. And I dealt with this yesterday. Today I quote the Associated Press, which in the above quotation does not come further than yesterday, but also has some - quite minimalistic - "further clarification":

A spokesman at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees CDC, said in a statement that it’s a mischaracterization to say the CDC was banned from using certain words. But HHS officials did not clarify or answer any other questions.

Really now? I take it only "a statement" by "a spokesman" was given, but it came entirely without any evidence (since they "did not clarify or answer any other questions").

Well... given the many lies that Trump's presidency glorifies in, I must take it - until real evidence has been given - that the probability seems to be that (i) someone high in Trump's government did decide to fragment and deny the expressive linguistic capacities of anyone working for Trump's government, but so far (ii) they more or less forgot that this fragmentation of language and of the possibilities of linguistic expression is typical for fascistic, authoritarian and dictatorial governments.

More may follow.


3. Why the Trump Era Won’t Pass Without Serious Damage to America

This article is by Neal Gabler on Moyers and Company (and see the next item). It starts as follows:

In recent months, in the process of trying to understand for myself the cataclysm of Nov. 8, 2016, I have tried to examine a number of forces — demographic, economic, cultural, media — that may help explain it. I am certain that the question of  “what happened” will plague us for decades and that Nov. 8, 2016, will join April 12, 1861; Oct. 28, 1929; Dec. 7, 1941; Nov. 22, 1963 and Sept. 11, 2001 as one of the most calamitous and tragic dates in our history.

I tend to agree with that and I also agree with the title, but I basically do not agree with the following:

But I think the real lesson of 2016 lies not in politics, but in religion. We hear a great deal about tribalism as an explanation for the Trump phenomenon. We hear about how Americans have divided themselves into parochial groups that reinforce shared values and interests as well as grievances and hatreds. But if tribalism answers one question — why people seem to hold so firmly to their beliefs in the face of contradictory evidence and even moral opprobrium — it doesn’t answer another, more important question: Why did they join these tribes in the first place?

True religion, I believe, begins in doubt and continues in spiritual exploration. Debased religion begins in fear and terminates in certainty.

My reason is that I am an unregenerate total atheist, from a totally atheistic family (that  goes back to the 1850ies in atheism in case of my mother's family), and besides
I am also a philosopher, who knows a great amount of philosophy, that he agrees is nearly all rather or completely mistaken, but that nevertheless is not as mistaken, as prejudiced, as ideological, as much as product of blind wishful thinking, and not as self-blinding as is religion in most cases I do know.

The basic problem for me consists of two parts:

The first part is that there is no true religion of any kind whatsoever, while real religion is fundamentally against science, against logic, against empiricist theorizing, and against rationalism.

The second part is that as a thoroughly atheistic scientist I am in a quite small minority of the really intelligent (at most 1 in 50) who do try to behave and think in a rational and empiricist manner anywhere, and especially in the USA.

And my basic difference with Neil Gabler is that I strongly disagree with him on the merits of or the need for any religion, but indeed that I also know that my position must be that of a - quite small, often discriminated, quite intellligent - minority, and especially in the USA.

So I only say so, and continue with the article:

Modern conservatism, like debased religion, has an explanation for everything, and there is nothing mysterious or spiritual about it. Trump understood the desire for some all-encompassing answer, as demagogues always do. Demagogues assume the proportions of religious leaders, but without the moral instruction. Through a process of simplification, they purport to tell their followers what happened and who is responsible. In short, they provide cosmology, not for the purpose of enlightenment, but for the opposite — benightedness.

I agree Trump is a demagogue and a liar but - as I use terms - it is less demagoguery than ideology that is my enemy, indeed because ideology almost always consists of  conciously simplified bits of some - probably false - philosophical or religious system, that got simplified to gain apppeal, and because many would not understand it in its original forms, while demagoguery is, rather, what some people do or say once they have either an ideology or some other strong personal interest that they want to popularize.

Then again, Neil Gabler might agree with me, for he gets it mostly right if he is talking about ideologists rather than demagogues.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Moreover, I am convinced that the worst is yet to come. Heading into the special election in Alabama, Moore seemed likely to win, confirming the utter depravity of the Republican Party. Thankfully — mercifully — that was not the case. Trump will issue blanket pardons in the Russia investigation and eventually fire Robert Mueller. The attacks on environmental protection, conservation, economic equality, the social safety net, a free press, voting rights, higher education and reason, diplomacy, women and morality itself will continue unabated with the full support of the Republicans. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. America is under siege, and this civil war has already taken a grave toll.

I mostly agree. And this also is a recommended article, and not because I agree with it, for fundamentally I do not, but because it very probably is, at least, an honest article, which also is a position I have reached with regards to Bill Moyers, who is subject of the next article:

4. Veteran Journalist Bill Moyers Announces Site Closure

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In a quiet post published to BillMoyers.com on Friday titled simply, "Farewell," the veteran muckraker and site's namesake—whose work in public life goes back to the Johnson administration in the early 1960s and whose journalistic career spans from his teens as a local newspaper reporter in East Texas to his most well-known role as the host of several PBS shows and documentaries—announced that the online project would soon enter "archive mode" and cease its daily output of progressive news and commentary.

I say, which I do because I did not know this. Also, while I don't think I ever (completely) agreed with Bill Moyers, I have quoted and discussed quite a few things he published on his site, which also means that I found it helpful and interesting, indeed also when I did not agree.

For more on Bill Moyers, see the last link. Incidentally, Bill Moyers, while I disagree with him, was very much more useful and interesting than the horrible Paul Krugman, whose column I read daily for 3 1/2 years without finding anything of interest, and whose only interest for me the last year or so is how young he lately looks (he is - again - growing noticeably younger) and how he avoids looking one into the eye. (The latest news on Krugman is that he looks in his middle or early forties (later thirties?), while facing rightwards (for him).)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

While the content on the site will, it seems, remain available in perpetuity, Moyers called on its readers going forward to "remain vigilant and engaged as citizens in the civic and political life of your community and our country."

And offering the kind of parting wisdom that was common to his brand of informed, impassioned journalism and political commentary, he offered a final pinch of wisdom and guidance to those, like he, who have expressed so much concern about the current moment in the nation's political life. "Democracy is fragile," he wrote, " and no one can say with certainty that it can withstand the manifold risks to which it is now exposed."

One of the industry's most reluctant retirees and a journalist of unending commitment to democracy and the public sphere, this outlet wishes him a very biased farewell in return and thanks him for his years of service, that of his talented and dedicated team, and wishes them all the best for what the future brings.

I mostly agree, although it is my guess that Queally means "blessed" when he wrote "biased". But yes: I liked and respected Bill Moyers, while mostly somewhat disagreeing with him or his site, while I dislike and do not respect Paul Krugman, and both judgements are based on 3 1/2 years of daily reading parts of their site or their column.


5. How America’s militaristic, capitalist culture led to Trump

This article (or excerpt) is by Charles Derber and Yale R. Magrass. It is from their book Bully Nation: How the American Establishment Creates a Bullying Society[4]. It starts as follows:
Bullying has been a means of controlling people by putting them in "their place” perhaps for as long as there have been humans. We live in militaristic capitalism. Capitalism is bullying; it is a competition with winners and losers. Militarism is also bullying: violence, aggression, and submission to authority. Militaristic capitalism combines two bullying principles, which multiplies their effect. The United States openly views itself as the world police force, a benign hegemon morally ordained to impose its interests and values on the rest of the world and justified in the name of freedom, human rights, and antiterrorism to do whatever it wants to weaker countries. The United States spends more on weapons than its ten largest competitors combined.
I say - and I immediately admit this was a faulty selection of mine, based on its title and a bit that I read. Also, I have no good idea who Derber and Magrass are, but I can tell you their thesis: The decline of the USA is due to bullying. And it is not due to capitalism (is bullying), to militarism (is bullying) to rich frauds (are bullying), to lying mainstream media (bullies) or to anything else but bullies: It is all bullying, at least from the bit I read.

Now what is "bullying"?

I consulted my Shorter Oxford Dictionary, and found many laudable though indeed mostly older meanings of "bully", such as 'lover (of either sex)', 'Sweetheart, darling; orig. of either sex' and more, like 'Brother, companion, mate'. There also is a less laudable and later meaning, which is 'to intimidate, overawe'.

And I take it the last mentioned sense is meant, which means - or so it would seem to me - that everything that went wrong in the USA is due to intimidation.

Perhaps you will not blame me if I say that I find this rather stupid and quite ignorant at best. I also add that I did find Charles Derber on Wikipedia, and that he seems less stupid and less ignorant from that bit, but then again I found the same about many supposedly "social democratic" professors in Holland who only wanted to get rich as possible, and have as high a degree of status as possible.

I do not know how true that is of Derber & Magrass, but here is some more about their language:
The most vicious bully of all is the militaristic capitalist system itself, which requires bullying by people in power, regardless of their individual personalities. Most people would not see Barack Obama as someone with a particularly bullying personality, yet his role as president of the United States required him to promise "so long as I'm commander in chief, we will sustain the strongest military the world has ever known.” As president, he attacked Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan, often sending in US Navy SEALs and the US Army Delta Force. During his last year in office, he dropped 26,171 bombs. He deported over 2.5 million people, more than all other presidents combined.
I quoted it, but please do not ask me to interpret "The most vicious bully of all is the militaristic capitalist system itself [?!?!?! - MM [5]], which requires bullying by people in power, regardless of their individual personalities."

And while I agree that Obama is a bad man I much doubt anything is added to explaining or understanding his many unpleasant characteristics by insisting that he was "a bully". (I don't think he was, at least not personally. But I strongly dislike him.)

Finally, this is from the ending of the excerpt:

Bullying enhances the ideology that the strong are strong, the weak are weak, and each deserves to be where they are. This attitude pervades America's culture, government, military, corporations, media, schools, entertainment industry, athletics, and everyday life.
Suppose so. Does it help to explain capitalism, militarism, profiteering, lying, deceiving, corporate degeneracy, or mainstream propaganda? I do not see why or why it would be important. According to Derber and Magrass it - I mean: bullying - explains "[h]ow America’s militaristic, capitalist culture led to Trump".

I say. It seems quite stupid in my eyes.

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

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.


And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).


The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

[2] Let me explain why M.A. Brandt's "Everybody knows that truth does not exist" logically implies that it cannot be true there ever was a Holocause: One knows something p if and only if one believes that p and one's belief is true. (This is a very common definition, even though it is a bit simplified.) If there is no truth, as M.A. Brandt insisted upon, then it cannot be true there ever was a Holocause.

[3] I am sorry, but the "definition" of "totalitarian" on Wikipedia is a sick fraudulent lie, that makes nearly everything I learned about totalitarianism utterly false, for it is defined (on the Wikipedia) as follows (and the quotemarks are added):
"Totalitarianism" is a political system in which the state
recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.
No it is not, and this definition is a sick and degenerate lie for this definition makes it completely impossible that any person, any group, any institution or any religion can possibly be totalitarian, for according to this sick definition only political systems with states can be totalitarian.

In contrast, here is my proper definition (and there is more in the original):
Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.
For this definition does cover states, political systems, ideologies, religions, political ideologies, persons and groups, quite as intended by virtually every of the very many writers I have read on totalitarianism.

[4] I am sorry, but I detest Amazone so much that I will delete all references to them: If you want a book, go to a proper bookshop.

[5] In explanation of my "(?!?!?!)": Many terms are either concrete (like a particular bully in school) or else abstract (like a political system). Something which is supposed to be both is generally plain nonsense. (Military systems do not bully, even if all military men do.)
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