January 22, 2018

Crisis: Thought Police, Allen Frances, Cable News, Voice Reports, Destroying the GOP


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 22, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 22, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) 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 more than 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 I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 22, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. Thought Police for the 21st Century 
2. Trump Isn't Crazy, He's Just a Terrible Person: Leading Psychiatrist
3. The Worst Thing About Year One of Trump: Fascistization of Cable News
4. ‘NSA Reigns Supreme’ in Voice Recognition, Intercept Reports
5. How Trump is Destroying the GOP
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. Thought Police for the 21st Century

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
The abolition of net neutrality and the use of algorithms by Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter to divert readers and viewers from progressive, left-wing and anti-war sites, along with demonizing as foreign agents the journalists who expose the crimes of corporate capitalism and imperialism, have given the corporate state the power to destroy freedom of speech. Any state that accrues this kind of power will use it.
Yes indeed, I mostly agree, although I would like it rather a lot if ¨algorithm¨ were replaced by ¨program¨, simply because that is a whole lot clearer.

Then again, I think I go considerably farther than Hedges, because I think the internet has been designed to further neofascism very much rather than freedom, democracy, equal rights and the protections of privacies.

I liked computers a lot until the internet. What I think about the internet was exposed by Zbigniew Brezinski in 1969 and 1970 (and has been meanwhile mostly removed from the internet). First, see here.

From this I quote two pieces, which make it quite clear that the internet was designed to do what it does, that is spying on everyone and stealing all their private information to better deceive and manipulate them.

Here is the first piece, that goes back to 1967 (and all of this is quoted from Stephen Spender´s ¨The Year of the Young Rebels¨ (1969), that also meanwhile disappeared from the internet, as did some bits from earlier biographies of Brezinski on Wikipedia):
The idea of the technotronic society seems to be under the auspices of Zbigniev Brezezinski, until recently a member of the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department, and now Director of the Research Institute of Communist Affairs at
Columbia University. The 'technotronic society' seems to be the exact opposite of the society of 'spontaneity' demanded by revolutionary students, who Mr Brezezinskin evidently regards as pathetic throw-backs, survivors of Romantic days, forlornly playing out anachronistic roles: (1)

Our society is leaving the phase of spontaneity and is entering a more self-conscious state; ceasing to be an industrial society, its is being shaped to an ever-increasing extent by technology and electronics,
        (1) New Republic, 13 December 1967

and thus becoming the first technotronic society. This is at least in part the cause for much of the current tensions and violence, and largely the reason why events in America today do not fit established categories of analysis.
Here is what Brezinski had in mind (in the late 60ies, long before it was there, which means it was planned):
However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new order. For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
And this is because the police will know everything that people who use computers think, want, value and desire - Brezinski already wanted and planned in the late 1960ies. For the police will be abled ¨to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen¨.

This in 1967-1970. Here is the third and last piece I quote from Spender´s book. It is from 1970, again showing the development of personal computers was planned and intentional:
"The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities." – Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, 1970
Fifty years later we do live in ¨a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values¨, and we know (thanks to Edward Snowden) that what is being implemented now is ¨continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen¨.

This gives ¨the authorities¨ vastly more powers than the KGB had in the Soviet Union, and then the Gestapo had in Hitler´s Germany - and they have this power now, and have implemented it also on a very large scale since 9/11/2001.

Back to Hedges´ article:

“The future of humanity is the struggle between humans that control machines and machines that control humans,” Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said in a statement issued in support of the event. “Between the democratization of communication and usurpation of communication by artificial intelligence. While the Internet has brought about a revolution in people’s ability to educate themselves and others, the resulting democratic phenomena has shaken existing establishments to their core. Google, Facebook and their Chinese equivalents, who are socially, logistically and financially integrated with existing elites, have moved to re-establish discourse control. This is not simply a corrective action. Undetectable mass social influence powered by artificial intelligence is an existential threat to humanity. While still in its infancy, the trends are clear and of a geometric nature. The phenomena differs in traditional attempts to shape cultural and political phenomena by operating at scale, speed and increasingly at a subtlety that eclipses human capacities.”
I think Assange is mostly quite right, but it seems quite likely that he does not know the opinions of Brezinski between 1967 and 1970, which indeed also have been removed from the internet (apart from my site).

Also, I do not think that Google, Facebook etc. needed ¨
to re-establish discourse control¨: They have always had it, basically thanks to the decision not to encode e-mails, which made virtually everything anyone sends to anyone served also in copy to the secret services, for all they needed to do was to plug the internet cables.

Here is some more from Hedges´ article:

In late April and early May the World Socialist Web Site, which identifies itself as a Trotskyite group that focuses on the crimes of capitalism, the plight of the working class and imperialism, began to see a steep decline in readership. The decline persisted into June. Search traffic to the World Socialist Web Site has been reduced by 75 percent overall. And the site is not alone. AlterNet’s search traffic is down 71 percent, Consortium News’ traffic is down 72 percent. And the situation appears to be growing worse.

This all seems quite true to me, and in fact here is the explanation:

The reductions coincided with the introduction of algorithms imposed by Google to fight “fake news.” Google said the algorithms are designed to elevate “more authoritative content” and marginalize “blatantly misleading, low quality, offensive or downright false information.” It soon became apparent, however, that in the name of combating “fake news,” Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are censoring left-wing, progressive and anti-war sites. The 150 most popular search terms that brought readers to the World Socialist Web Site, including “socialism,” “Russian Revolution” and “inequality,” today elicit little or no traffic.

That is, the explanation is that in fact ¨in the name of combating “fake news,” Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are censoring left-wing, progressive and anti-war sites¨.

Here is more - and there is also widespread government censorship of opinions the government doesn´t like to see spread:

This censorship is global. The German government’s Network Enforcement Act fines social media companies for allegedly objectionable content. French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to remove “fake news” from the internet. Facebook and Instagram erased the accounts of Ramzan Kadyrov, the dictator of the Chechen Republic, because he is on a U.S. sanctions list. Kadyrov is certainly repugnant, but this ban, as the American Civil Liberties Union points out, empowers the U.S. government to effectively censor content. Facebook, working with the Israeli government, has removed over 100 accounts of Palestinian activists. This is an ominous march to an Orwellian world of Thought Police, “Newspeak” and “thought-crime” or, as Facebook likes to call it, “de-ranking” and “counterspeech.”

I think the diagnosis is correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The internet, with its ability to reach across international boundaries, is a potent tool for connecting workers across the earth who are fighting the same enemy—corporate capitalism. And control of the internet, the elites know, is vital to suppress information and consciousness.

And I disagree with this opinion: For me, the internet = an expressly designed tool to bring about neofascism (i.e. Brezinski´s ¨technotronic society¨ planned in the 1960ies).

In fact, I could connect to everyone I liked with the post. This also gets more and more impossible, simply because almost everything on the internet can be read by each of the very many secret services, and by Facebook, Google, Amazon and other very rich corporations, and everything that can be read can be abused.

What I have now is connections to anonymous total unknowns who can fire any amount of shit and insults at anyone without any risk, while any mail I send that is not thoroughly encrypted will be stored by the secret services and many corporations.

We are on the road to neofascism, that will be brought to us by Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazone, and Microsoft, and we probably will get there without a very major crisis.

2. Trump Isn't Crazy, He's Just a Terrible Person: Leading Psychiatrist

This article is by Kali Holloway on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
In an age when the current White House occupant has inspired unprecedented levels of armchair psychiatry, Allen Frances remains one of the foremost authorities in the field. As the chair of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) IV Task Force, he helped draft the criteria defining narcissistic personality disorder and other mental illnesses. He previously served as the chairman of the psychiatry department at Duke University School of Medicine and founded the Journal of Personality Disorders and the Journal of Psychiatric Practice. In other words, Frances knows his personality disorders.
O Lord, there is the fraud Frances again!

But let me first explain why I think Frances is a fraud. I think he is so for three main reasons:

(1) He is a modern psychiatrist, and one of the leaders of the DSMs (until he was ousted there, for he was). I am a psychologist and a philosopher of science, and I say that psychiatry never was a real science - see e.g. the psychiatrist and cybernetician Warren S. McCulloch in the early fifties, with his ¨The Past of a Delusion¨ that marked McCulloch´s change from psychiatry to cybernetics - and has become a pseudoscience with the coming of the DSM-III in 1980.

(2) The DSMs are the foundations of pseudoscience because they are the outcomes of the private and secret considerations of a couple of American psychiatrists, and consist nominally only of a list of diagnoses that can be made on the basis of observations. This was itself a bit of an advantage, but there is no theory whatsoever behind it (except vague bits that are also mostly kept secret), and also, while there were until 1980 between 40 and 50 diagnoses of various mad persons, by now (and in Frances DSM-IV) there are over 450 diagnoses that allow psychiatrists to declare persons insane. For considerably more, see my
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis".

Besides, the absolutely only diagnostic instrument that psychiatrists have to test themselves is... the degree of agreement between psychiatrists on the observational diagnoses they make - and that is far less than would be desirable.

(3) I have M.E. for nearly forty years. According to psychiatrists there is no M.E. and the people who say they have it (that comprise about 15 million people worldwide, including quite a few medical doctors and some psychiatrists) are not ill: they are insane. (So I am insane while I made an M.A. in psychology with only straight As while I was insane, and I also made a B.A. in philosophy while I was insane, and I also led a student-party while I was insane. That is modern psychiatry.)

Frances has had many years to lift a finger for the 15 million people with M.E. he and his psychiatric mates declared insane (and insisted on no scientific medical research whatsoever, other than psychiatric research, was necessary), but - to the extent of my knowledge, which I insert because I am not following Frances - he never lifted a finger: The 15 million people with M.E. are still insane according to this fraud.

That was some background - and incidentally: most Dutch psychologists I have known agree with me that psychiatry is not a real science, although they probably are a bit less radical than I am. But then again they have no M.E.; they have no knowledge of philosophy of science, which I have (and Frances mostly lacks); and hardly any finished his or her studies as well as I did (while I was physically ill all the time).

Finally, while I am willing to grant that ¨
Frances knows his personality disorders¨ I also think that his knowledge of these is mostly verbal, not factual: Psychiatry may be an art, in the hands of a few of its practicians, but it certainly is not a real science.

And while I think there certainly are several forms of madness (so psychiatry has a reason for existing) I also think that the increase from 50 to 450 forms of madness is either utter craziness or else motivated by the desire to make money, for it is definitely not based on any real science.

Besides, absolutely no one knows, till this day, how the brain makes experience, while Frances himself admitted in 2010 that he does not know how to define madness: See here:
Inside the Battle to Define Mental Illness (and this interesting link still works).

Here is more by Holloway:
This insight has come in handy as breathless speculation about Donald Trump’s mental state reaches fever pitch. The president’s belligerence, bellicosity and bad behavior have inspired mental health clinicians to break the Goldwater Rule—which deems diagnosis from afar unethical—and even to call for its elimination. Yale psychiatrist Bandy Lee has briefed Congress on Trump’s "unraveling” and edited a book in which 27 other psychiatrists offer similar psychiatric takes. Nearly 70,000 mental health professionals have signed a petition alleging “Trump is mentally ill and must be removed.” As far back as 2015, psychologist George Simon told Vanity Fair that he had “archive[d] video clips of Trump to use in workshops because there’s no better example” of narcissistic personality disorder.
This is more or less correct, although I would not speak of ¨insight¨ in case of a pseudoscience (with some right to existence, as an art, but with no right to declare itself a real science).

Here Frances' craziness manifests itself:

Dr. Frances, in a letter to the New York Times that got a lot a lot of attention, fervently disagreed.

Frances’s description of Trump as a man who is mentally fit but morally bankrupt deserves some turning over, in part because it doesn’t let the president off the hook. If Trump is mentally competent, that means he is responsible for the havoc he wreaks, the pain he causes and the hatred he stokes.
I speak of ¨craziness¨ (without any psychiatric prejudgement: it simply seems a fit term) because he is one psychiatrist, and he disagrees with no less than 70,000 psychologists and psychiatrists who all think otherwise (and - if psychiatrists - also took some risks to say so).

As to Holloway´s imputation of responsibility to Trump: I am not much interested - I do not want to be involved in a nuclear war by a freak like Trump.

Here is more on Frances, who may have deradicalized his opinions on over 300 million Americans a bit:
Frances calls out the “societal disease” that helped sweep Trump into office, but stops short of historicizing it as a foundational virtue of a country established in slavery and genocide instead of a recently emergent issue.
For Frances insisted earlier that they were ¨psychotics¨ (a mere 300+ million diagnoses he should not make) but this time he only speaks of a ¨societal disease¨.
I spoke with Frances, whose most recent book is Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, about the problem that is Trump and how to end the distractions that keep us from solving it.
Then again, he may not, given the title of his most recent money maker (but I have not and will not read it).

Here is more utter craziness (qualified as above) by Frances:
Allen Frances: Yes. First of all, Trump is, without a doubt, a world-class narcissist. Not just among the great narcissists of our day, but among the great narcissists of all time. You have to go back to Nero in Rome maybe to find someone as self-involved and destructive as he is.
Well... if he is ¨a world-class narcissist¨, he clearly is not sane, by Frances' own DSM-IV (and 5 and III). And if he has the size of Nero - I don´t know whether Frances read Suetonius on Nero, but I have - he must be quite insane.

But not according to Frances, although his pleading is extremely partial. Here is the first bit:
Secondly, some of our best and worst presidents have been narcissistic. It's never been seen as a sign by itself of incompetence for the office. It's the behaviors that may be associated with it that need to be addressed, not the diagnosis. The diagnosis doesn't really add much to the discussion. In fact, instead of clarifying it muddies the waters.
Perhaps - but they were far less narcissistic than Trump (who, after all, is as insane as Nero was, according to Frances - and Nero may be safely called insane on the basis of what Suetonius said).

Next, the diagnosis is Frances´ own. Being a psychologist, and the diagnosis being in observational terms, I could easily apply it and verify it (indeed also without much knowledge of Trump: see March 14, 2016). But if Frances is correct in saying that the diagnosis of narcissism ¨muddies the waters¨ his diagnosis in the DSM-IV (and III and 5) must be incorrect.

Then there is this:
Thirdly, the criteria of a narcissistic personality disorder require a whole series of narcissistic behaviors and attitudes. All of which Trump displays with magnificent extravagance, but it also requires that there be, as a result, clinically significant distress or impairment.
I agree - it seems - with Frances that Trump does satisfy 9 out of 9 criterions to diagnose someone as a narcissist (and satisfying 5 out of 9 is sufficient for the diagnosis). Next, Frances claims there also should be ¨as a result, clinically significant distress or impairment¨. Well...
(i) not according to the list of criterions I used to diagnose Trump, and besides (ii) why should Trump show ¨
distress or impairment¨ as president who gets many things he desires done, while also (iii) how can Frances know there is no ¨distress or impairment¨ without knowing him?!

Then there is this:
We desperately have to contain this dangerous, impulsive, irritable, ignorant, despicable president. But we're not going to contain him by idle, sideline, armchair, impotent psychiatric diagnosis.
I agree with the first statement, but I disagree with the second: I and 15 million people with M.E. are still diagnosed by psychiatrists as insane on the one single criterion that we say we are physically ill; Trump, who satisfies all 9 criterions for being a malignant narcissist is not insane, according to Frances, because - I think - he is very powerful.

Then there is this utter vagueness and arbitrariness:
Only a small portion of bad behaviors are done by people who are mentally ill. Most bad people are not mentally ill; most mentally ill people aren't bad.
I think this is so vague as to be totally worthless. Besides, in 2010 Frances could not define madness, and now he ¨knows¨ that ¨Most bad people are not mentally ill; most mentally ill people aren't bad.¨ (which is a judgement about 7 billion people, of which Frances knows at best a few thousands).

Then there is this:
I've never been politically active in my whole life. I've been missing in action at just about every important political moment up until this one. I think people have to stop screaming at their TV sets, stop thinking about complaining about Trump, and get out to vote.
This may well be a considerable difference between Frances and myself: I was always politically active (for at least 60 years now, also) indeed in part because my parents and part of my grandparents were politically active. But I agree it would be nice if more American voted.

Here is the ending:

We need to have a protocol for starting nuclear war that doesn't leave the button near his irritable trigger finger. He could press that button instead of tweeting in the morning and no general would know.

We need to have a protocol that makes clear that this is a consensus decision and not made solely by what may be the most unstable person in the country. These are political steps that need to be taken, and people need to stop this unsure preoccupation with psychological motivations and diagnosis, and realize that we're under political threat.

Well... I happen to agree, but then again I also know that there is a rule to this effect, namely that only Congress can declare war. Except it hasn´t been applied since 2001.

Anyway... I think I do understand Frances: He makes a lot of money writing books like this.
And this article is recommended, provided you use your mind when reading it.

3. The Worst Thing About Year One of Trump: Fascistization of Cable News

This article is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment. It starts as follows:

American mass media journalism is broken. There are some simple elements of US journalistic practice that have proved easy for special interests to hack, and the editors at least have allowed themselves to be used by sinister forces. (I am speaking primarily of television news here, and primarily of the 24 hour channels).

Despite the impression that Trump hates the press and forms a danger to it, the mass media actually has fallen for him, hard.

This seems mostly correct, although it isn´t very precise. Also, it is my guess that the American mass media did not fall so much for Trump as for the money he generated for them (but I may be mistaken on the level of the editors).

Here is more:

The search for ratings and advertising dollars above all is very dangerous. CNN’s Jeff Zucker put Trump on every night in summer of 2016, letting him speak directly to the public for an hour or more with no journalistic adult in the room. Trump attracted an audience, which allowed CNN to charge advertisers more. Zucker has to decide if he really wanted to promote Nazism for the sake of a buck.

Well... Zucker said clearly (I think I remember) that he did it for the money, and indeed CNN seems to have made a lot of money by way of Trump, and I take it also that Zucker probably does not agree with Cole that Trump is promoting Nazism.

Here is some more:

The “on the one hand, on the other hand” model for cable news (also used by respectable outfits such as PBS NewsHour) is a big part of the problem. Since news gathering is expensive, the 24-hour cable outfits have moved to mainly putting on discussion panels. That move is a very bad idea. Most of the “discussion” is talking points by partisan hacks. Walter Cronkite would not have thought that was news.

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

Since Trumpism is an American form of fascism, and since the cable news editors believe that they have to balance the discussion panels with regard to view point (on the one hand, on the other hand), they recruit Trump surrogates to speak for him.

This does not seem to be quite coherent: You don´t ¨balance the discussion panels¨ by recruiting Trump surrogates, and also I would not call Trump a fascist (see the definition) though I agree he is a neofascist (see the definition) - but by now I also am very well aware that my usage of the terms ¨fascism¨ and ¨neofascism¨ is far more precise than any I have read from any journalist.
4. ‘NSA Reigns Supreme’ in Voice Recognition, Intercept Reports

This article is by Emily Well on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Citing documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, a report by The Intercept on Friday reveals that the agency has used highly refined voice recognition software for more than a decade. The software was instrumental in identifying former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who went into hiding after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the report says.

The technology raises concerns about the potential surveillance of American civilians. Timothy Edgar, a former White House adviser to the director of national intelligence, told The Intercept, “This creates a new intelligence capability and a new capability for abuse. … In an age of mass surveillance, this kind of capability has profound implications for all of our privacy.”

Yes, indeed - but since I have explained why I think the internet (as is) = the royal road to neofascism (see item 1 above), this is just one more way to make it so.

Here is how this is going to be abused:

Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, noted that the technology could hypothetically be used to keep tabs on journalists, expose sources and discourage anonymous tips. “There are microphones all around us all the time. We all carry around a microphone 24 hours a day, in the form of our cellphones,” he said. “And we know that there are ways for the government to hack into phones and computers to turn those devices on.”

Actually, I don´t have a cellphone and I don´t want a cellphone, but I agree I am one of the very few. And apart from that Timm is quite correct.

This is the end of the article:

Snowden, who controversially acted as an NSA whistleblower, has developed an app called Haven that can detect intrusions on Android smartphones. The app is “for people who need a way to protect their personal spaces and possessions without compromising their own privacy.”

I copied that to relay the news. This is a recommended article.

5. How Trump is Destroying the GOP

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

America has never had a president as deeply unpopular at this stage of his presidency, or one who has sucked up more political oxygen. This isn’t good news for the Republican Party this November or in the future, because the GOP has sold its soul to Trump.

Three principles once gave the GOP its identity and mission: Shrink the deficit, defend states’ rights, and be tough on Russia.

Now, after a year with the raving man-child who now occupies the White House, the Republican Party has taken a giant U-turn. Budget deficits are dandy, state’s rights are obsolete, and Russian aggression is no big deal.

By embracing a man whose only principles are winning and getting even, the Republican Party no longer stands for anything other than Trump.

Well... I agree mostly with Reich, but he is a Democrat, and I do not quite see why he would worry about the Republicans. Besides, since I also think that both the Democrats and the Republicans are mostly lying anyway, I think both parties do not stand for much.

Here is some more:

Now, with America’s debt at the highest level since shortly after World War II – 77 percent of GDP – Trump and the GOP have enacted a tax law that by their own estimates will increase the debt by at least $1.5 trillion over the decade.

What happened to fiscal responsibility? McConnell, Ryan, and the rest of the GOP have gone mum about it. Politics came first: They and Trump had to enact the big tax cut in order to reward their wealthy patrons.

This is quite correct, although I would have said ¨Money came first¨. Here is a conclusion of Reich:

For the new GOP, states’ rights be damned. Now it’s all about consolidating power in Washington, under Trump.

I agree and this is a recommended article.


[1]I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that 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 (!!). 

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