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Nederlog

January 25, 2018

Crisis: Conservatism, Apple & China, Pope Frances, Michael Wolff, Mainstream Media


Sections
Introduction   

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 25, 2018.

Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, January 25, 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 25, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. A Conservative’s Case Against Donald Trump
2. Apple Can’t Resist Playing by China’s Rules
3. For Pope Francis, Fake News Goes Back to the Garden of Eden
4. 9 Explosive Claims from Michael Wolff's Book That the Media Missed
5. Mainstream Media and Imperial Power
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. A Conservative’s Case Against Donald Trump

This article is by Adrian Wooldridge on The New York Times. This is a review of David Frum´s book ¨The Corruption of the American Republic¨. This is from near the beginning:
David Frum has usually been at or near the front of the pundit pack with a succession of articles in The Atlantic, where he is a senior editor. Most commentators are dyed-in-the-wool liberals who exhausted the language of fulmination during George W. Bush’s presidency. Frum worked for Bush and even had a hand in writing his “axis of evil” speech. Most commentators regard conservative America as an alien land inhabited by monsters. Frum has been writing sharp but sympathetic books on that land since his first, “Dead Right,” on the weaknesses of Reaganism, in 1994. The central theme in Frum’s excellent new book, “Trumpocracy,” which draws on his Atlantic articles, is what Trump’s career tells us about the deeper structural problems of America in general, and conservative America in particular.
This is sketch by Wooldridge of David Frum´s position. I quoted it to give some background to the author of the book, and not because I completely agree with it.

But I want to make two remarks about Wooldridge´s ¨
Most commentators regard conservative America as an alien land inhabited by monsters.¨

The first is that I have no idea to what extent (¨Most¨?!, ¨alien¨, ¨monsters¨) this might be true, and in fact I do think it is too vague and too sensational, but this is all less important.

My second remark is more important. I think that one way of looking at politics and the news these days is with the help of the following two - admittedly simplifying - diagrams:

            Left                          -             Middle             -                   Right
Belief in factual truths + Leftism - Non-belief in factual truth -
Belief in factual truths + Rightism

That is, for - genuine - Leftists (who these days write mostly for the non-mainstream media) there are still facts and truths, which conviction is embedded in a left-wing ideology; for - genuine - conservatives (I shall say) - there also are still facts and truths, but this time the convictions are embedded in a conservative ideology (who these days also to a considerable extent are excluded from the mainstream media). [2]

What is new is the group in the middle, that these days cover all the mainstream media, both of the leftist [3] kind and of the rightist [3] kind, and that basically gave up the notions of fact and of truth, and effectively replaced them by propaganda (of various kinds and various strengths) and baloney about the personal values by the mainstream media represent- atives of these ¨ideologies¨.

And all that matters for the - largest - middle group of the mainstream media are the various kinds of propaganda and baloney they spread (colored by a leftish or a rightish ideology) and the profits they make that way.

I immediately admit that the above is also a simplification, but it seems more correct to me than the more normal simplifications of the left and the right. One way of summarizing it is that the mainstream media have sold out to propaganda + profits.

Back to the article. This is on a difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump:
Trump’s campaign against Hillary Clinton was in some ways a model of how not to run campaigns — he lurched from crisis to crisis and never bothered to enumerate any detailed policies. But he understood her great limitation: that she represented the nexus between meritocracy and plutocracy, indebted to Big Money and divorced from millions of heartland Americans.
More specifically (and I think this is true): Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all started as poor politicians, while the Clintons now have more than $100 million dollars, it seems mostly from the bankers, and Obama has more than $65 million, mostly from selling autobiographies, it seems.

It seems that all three are grossly corrupt, and it certainly makes sense to look at the conventional politicians not as being foremost politicians, who are trying to represent and lead citizens, but as being money-makers for themselves, and as budding millionairs through the political ways of propagandizing, lying and deceiving.

In any case, this is my explanation of Wooldridge´s qualification of Hillary Clinton, that in fact also holds for Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and most leading Democrats: They represent ¨
the nexus between meritocracy and plutocracy" and are extremely ¨indebted to Big Money¨, that indeed - in part - set out to corrupt them, and that succeeded enormously.

Back to Wooldridge´s article:
The line between truth and falsehood is becoming dangerously blurred. Again, America’s knowledge elite is partly responsible for this: Armies of postmodern academics had prepared the way for Trump by arguing that truth is a construct of the power elite. But the biggest culprit is technological progress. Digitalization is not only creating a deafening cacophony of voices. It is also making it harder to finance real journalism while simultaneously making it easier to distribute tripe.
In fact, I think these are (at least) three different propositions, that I shall briefly try to restate from my point of view (which is neither Frum´s nor Wooldridge´s):

In fact (at least for the mainstream media: see above) truth and falsehood have been replaced (quite consciously also, at least in the media) by propaganda + profit: What the mainstream media spread is mostly conscious propaganda, and the only real thing that binds it are not the real facts or the real truths, but the actual profits that are made by the mainstream media, as indeed was also admitted by CNN (who agreed that Trump was talking bullshit in his presidential campaign, but it was all very profitable, and that was the reason to show it day in and day out).

Next, Wooldridge is quite correct this exchange of truth and falsehood for propaganda and profit was prepared by the postmodernistic academics, who did in fact insist that there is no truth whatsoever, and that all truths are propaganda, but it is my guess that Wooldridge is mistaken about how long this took: In Holland it started in 1978, when the academical year was opened with the special and public total (in fact: fascistic) lie that
¨Everybody knows that truth does not exist¨
This was then also the official ideology of - at least - the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam, and has been maintained as the official ideology till 1995 (though less explicit than in 1978 at it gained more and more terrain).

Third, as to the ¨
deafening cacophony of voices¨: It is especially Facebook and Twitter that have introduced something like 2 billion publishers who cannot really write (and so are remarkably glad to limit their slogans and insults to 148 characters, that was the limit of what one could write on Twitter) and who mainly communicate with themselves while most can neither define ¨propaganda¨ nor ¨truth¨ nor ¨falsehood¨ in any clear rational terms (in which most anyway disbelieve).

There is more to be said about each of my three remarks, but not here and now. I quote the last bit of this article:
Frum thinks the combination of Trump’s drive for self-aggrandizement and America’s current weaknesses is nothing less than a threat to the democratic order. “The thing to fear from the Trump presidency is not the bold overthrow of the Constitution, but the stealthy paralysis of governance; not the open defiance of law, but an accumulating subversion of norms; not the deployment of state power to intimidate dissidents, but the incitement of private violence to radicalize supporters.”
And I think Frum is quite right about this. This is a recommended article.

2. Apple Can’t Resist Playing by China’s Rules

This article is by Cheng Guangcheng - he is a blind Chinese who managed to escape with his wife and children to the USA in 2012 - on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Apple is selling out. It’s not about the latest version of the iPhone, but the huge cache of personal data that will be going directly to the largest, and one of the harshest, authoritarian regimes in the world: the Communist government of China.

Given the Chinese government’s continuing crackdown on human rights and freedom of speech under President Xi Jinping, as well as its deepening reach into Western democracies, Apple’s policies in China have far-reaching implications for us all.

Quite so: Apple is selling out - betraying over a billion Chinese, in fact - and it is doing so because doing so is profitable. (And also see neofascism.)

Here is more on what is happening in China:

Last summer, Apple announced that it would be partnering with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data, a state-owned company with Communist Party connections, to build Apple’s first data-storage center in China. Beginning Feb. 28, the iCloud content of Apple ID users registered in China will be sent to and managed by Guizhou-Cloud Big Data.

Customers registered in China, according to Apple’s new terms and conditions agreement for the country, must “understand and agree that Apple and G.C.B.D. will have access to all data that you store on this service, including the right to share, exchange and disclose all user data, including content, to and between each other under applicable law.”

In short, all personal user information stored on the iCloud — including photos, videos, text files, contacts, calendars and iCloud email — will be shared with Guizhou-Cloud Big Data and could be available to the Chinese authorities as well.
That is to say: Apple will be doing directly, contractually, explicitly, and for profit in China what it has been doing indirectly, secretively, implicitly and for profit in the West: Absolutely everything anyone thinks, values, desires, and in fact is, is being directly delivered to the secret services of the Chinese Communist Party (who thereby also know all the family and all the friends of those they have all the materials of).

Here is how Apple faces away from any responsibility - e.g. for effectively delivering the materials to the Chinese government that allow it to torture its inmates:
Under the agreement, Apple seems to be absolving itself of responsibility for what the authorities may choose to do with personal data in G.C.B.D.’s hands. Users who refuse Apple’s terms will be denied iCloud services. Users who accept run the risk of unwittingly provoking the ire of the aggressive police state, resulting in deleted data or accounts, or harassment and imprisonment.
In fact, this deal that Apple offers to the Chinese looks very much like the deal that Facebook offers to its members.

Here is the neofascist multi-billionaire, Apple´s Cook, posturing his pretended personal values:
In a 2015 interview with NPR, the Apple chief executive Tim Cook emphasized that privacy “is a fundamental human right that people have,” from a “values point of view,” not “a commercial interest point of view.”

Unfortunately, it now seems that such “values” are taking a back seat to profits.

In 2017, Apple also announced it was halting the sale of virtual private networks, apps that allow users inside China to get access to blocked content that is critical for activists and regular citizens. IPhones in China also no longer include some Western news outlets like The New York Times on the News app.

Precisely - or perhaps rather: For a man like Tim Cook the pretension of personal values is one of the means to push through the most profits for Apple and Cook himself.

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

It’s hard to believe that Apple is caving in to the regime like this. The only conclusion I am left to draw is that the company is O.K. with taking part in the suppression of freedoms abroad while espousing high-minded values at home.

To be fair, many American tech companies have been tripping over themselves to get into China. Facebook has reportedly been developing censorship software so that it can win approval to operate in China, while the company’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has long been courting the Chinese leadership. For such companies, the Chinese market is simply too big of a temptation when weighed against less quantitatively measurable things like human rights and freedom of expression.
Actually, I find it extremely easy ¨to believe that Apple is caving in to the regime like this¨ (but I am living 67 years in the West, also): I think Apple is like the mainstream media (see here): Apple has sold out truth + honesty to propaganda + profits (and it will continue to do so until it has been legally stopped, somehow).

3. For Pope Francis, Fake News Goes Back to the Garden of Eden

This article is by Jason Horowitz on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The serpent in the Garden of Eden hissed the first fake news to Eve and it all went downhill from there, Pope Francis wrote in a major document about the phenomenon of fake news released on Wednesday.

“We need to unmask what could be called the ‘snake-tactics’ used by those who disguise themselves in order to strike at any time and place,” the pope wrote in a message ahead of what the church has designated as its World Day of Social Communications, in May.

Arguing that the “crafty” serpent’s effective disinformation campaign to get Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge “began the tragic history of human sin,” he added, “I would like to contribute to our shared commitment to stemming the spread of fake news.”

I like Pope Francis, although I am a lifelong atheist, who doesn´t see anything convincing in Catholicism or any other religion. My reason is mainly that Francis is more realistic than previous popes, and also has a number of attitudes that I like.

Then again, while I like the above quoted bit, I would have liked it better if Francis had either avoided or clarified the terms ¨fake news¨ and ¨disinformation campaign¨, for the simple reasons that both are euphemisms for lies, which is what they are.

Here is some more:

But in a varyingly sophisticated, spiritual and questionable analysis of the fake news epidemic, the 81-year-old pontiff tried on the cap of contemporary media critic to address an issue that has wreaked havoc and undermined democracies from the United States to Europe and beyond.

In doing so, he offered a largely cleareyed assessment of the problem, its social impact, and the responsibility of social media giants and journalists. And he called on news consumers to break out of their comfortable echo chambers and cushy news feeds by seeking out different points of view.

I agree with that. Here is more:

Betraying a somewhat antiquated view that separates dead-tree and digital outlets, the pope defined fake news as the spreading “online or in the traditional media” of disinformation that is intended to deceive and manipulate consumers for political and economic interests.

He observed that fake news is effective because, like the snake in the garden, it insidiously mimics real news, and is “captious” — pope for clickbait — meaning that it grabs people’s attention by exploiting “emotions like anxiety, contempt, anger and frustration.”

Francis identified social networks as the delivery systems for such fake news.

“Untrue stories can spread so quickly that even authoritative denials fail to contain the damage,” he wrote, adding that those living virtual lives in like-minded silos allow disinformation to thrive and that the absence of opposing viewpoints turns people into “unwilling accomplices in spreading biased and baseless ideas.”

In fact, I have no idea what Horowitz has in mind when he speaks of ¨antiquated views¨,
while I insist that Francis spoke more or less correctly in the just cited bit, but would have spoken more correctly if he had made the following changes: ¨
lies¨ for ¨fake news¨; ¨lies¨ for ¨disinformation¨, and ¨false¨ for ¨untrue¨.

Try it out if you disbelieve me. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

To achieve a climate of open-minded dialogue, Francis exalted journalists, who have been generally demonized by President Trump and other leaders in efforts to undercut critical coverage. The pope called them the “protectors of news” and characterized their profession as a “mission.”

“Informing others means forming others; it means being in touch with people’s lives,” he wrote. “That is why ensuring the accuracy of sources and protecting communication are real means of promoting goodness, generating trust, and opening the way to communion and peace.”

Well... I agree with the pope, and this is a recommended article. 


4. 9 Explosive Claims from Michael Wolff's Book That the Media Missed

This article is by Chris Sosa on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

The ramifications of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House are still being felt as the author uses interview appearances to maintain a place in the news cycle. The book has already resulted in the ouster of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, whose extreme nationalist views were among the strongest influences on President Trump’s administration.

On Friday, Wolff claimed during an interview on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher that Trump is having an affair while in the White House. Wolff said the information can be read “between the lines” in the book. Some have wondered whether the subject is U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

While the award-winning Wolff’s factual reliability is a matter of continued debate, his book is anchored by hours of recorded interviews and copious notes. Many of the most explosive allegations have yet to be examined at-large in the mainstream media. Here are some of the most disturbing and fascinating claims found in the pages of Fire and Fury.

I have reported on both the "Fire and Fury" and on Michael Wolff before on Nederlog (see the index of this year) and I will limit Sosa´s report on the ¨9 explosive claims (..) that the media missed¨ to their titles, and suppress the texts (which you can read by going to the original):

1. Ann Coulter tried to stop Trump from employing his children.
2. Jared Kushner is the victim of anti-Semitism in the White House.
3. Trump’s preferred 
health care solution is Medicare-for-all.
4. Steve Bannon wanted to succeed Trump as president of the United
     States.

5. Hope Hicks is the subject of abuse as Trump keeps her close.
6. Trump isn’t convinced Richard Nixon was guilty in the Watergate
     scandal.
7. The war in Afghanistan infuriates Trump for its lack of profitability.
8. Trump is sympathetic to the contemporary KKK.
9. Trump planned to lose the 2016 election and was 'horrified' when he
     won.

And I also do not think all these items are ¨explosive¨ although several are interesting, notably the last.

I did not know this in the detail it is reported here, and will copy part of the last point:

Outlets focused on the negative response Melania Trump was reported to have upon learning of Trump’s victory. Much less coverage was dedicated to how Trump felt about winning the presidency.

Steve Bannon described a "befuddled Trump morphing into a disbelieving Trump and then into a quite horrified Trump.” Don Jr. reportedly told a friend that his father “looked as if he had seen a ghost.”

But Trump quickly morphed in a way that will sound familiar to those who have watched him occupy the office for the past year.

“[S]till to come was the final transformation: suddenly, Donald Trump became a man who believed that he deserved to be and was wholly capable of being the president of the United States,” Wolff writes.  

I say. And this is a recommended article.


5. Mainstream Media and Imperial Power

This article is by Dennis J. Bernstein and Randy Credico on Consortiumnews. This is from near the beginning:

Randy Credico and Dennis J Bernstein spoke with Pilger on January 18 about the multiple failures of the corporate press in fanning the phony flames of Russiagate, and turning its back on Julian Assange–acting more like prosecutors than journalists, whose responsibility it is to monitor the centers of power and report back to the people.

They also spoke with Pilger about the recent decision by the British Library to acquire his substantial works and invaluable archives and make them readily available to a much wider audience

First of all, I like and admire John Pilger and I am quite glad that the British Library has acquired his work, which in fact means that future generations - if there are any - will be abled to see his many fine and courageous films that document quite a large number of events in the last forty or fifty years, and normally in a considerably better way than the mainstream media did, at the same time.

Here is more on Pilger:

Dennis Bernstein: I would like to read a little of what they said on the record when they welcomed your material into the library.  They write, “Throughout his career, John Pilger has demonstrated the power and significance of investigative journalism in uncovering stories of people who have been ignored by the mainstream media or left otherwise without voice.  His groundbreaking work in Cambodia revealed the devastation caused by the Khmer Rouge and his film Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia has subsequently been described as one of the ten most influential documentaries of the twentieth century.”

I would like to read now a little of the statement that you sent to the World’s Socialist Conference where they were discussing the deep nature of censorship. You wrote, “Something has changed.  Although the media was always a loose extension of capital power, it is now almost fully integrated.  Dissent, once tolerated in the mainstream, has now regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves toward a form of corporate dictatorship.”  And it is getting worse at an exponential rate, wouldn’t you say?

I agree with everything, and my explanation is given (in part) above: The mainstream media have sold out truth + honesty  to propaganda + profits.

Here is some more by Pilger:

John Pilger:  Yes.  Chris Hedges is an example of that.  He was right in the mainstream at The New York Times and now finds himself outside it.  Another example is America’s most celebrated investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh, who it appears now can only get published in Germany.  Hersh has effectively been ejected from the mainstream in the United States.

In my own case, I navigated my way through the mainstream.  My films are still shown on commercial TV in Britain.  My written journalism, however, is no longer welcome.  Its last home was The Guardian, which three years ago got rid of people like me and others in a kind of purge of those who were saying what The Guardian no longer says anymore.

Yes indeed - and The Guardian has changed from a somewhat Leftist, mostly factual, mostly honest newspaper into a Blatcherist paper, and indeed I have seen this happening over the five years that I closely followed The Guardian: It is - at least from my point of view, and from the point of view of many Leftists - a far worse paper than it was five years ago.

Here is more, on telling the truth and on Julian Assange:

Dennis Bernstein: It has come to the point where to tell the truth is to commit professional suicide.

Randy Credico:  At the recent World Socialist Conference, Julian Assange warned of what he called the “super states” on the internet and how much power they have–the Facebooks and Googles, etc.

John Pilger: He raised the whole specter of artificial intelligence and how it can be abused by the undemocratic forces that control so much of the world.  I think what he had to say was very interesting and extremely timely.  It is important to remember that Assange is a refugee and that the refugee is almost a symbol of our times.
I agree with Pilger. And here is Pilger´s judgement on the mainstream media:
CNN and NBC and the rest of the networks have been the voices of power and have been the source of distorted news for such a long time.  They are not circling the wagons because the wagons are on the wrong side.  These people in the mainstream have been an extension of the power that has corrupted so much of our body politic.  They have been the sources of so many myths.
(..)
Media in the West is now an extension of imperial power.  It is no longer a loose extension, it is a direct extension.
Yes indeed, and that is a very great loss, and this is a strongly recommended article.

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] In fact, rather a lot has been comprised in this paragraph, and I will also only give a few partial explanations here of the terms I use.

First, there is a presumed background, which has been sketched in Naturalism, Natural Realism, Natural Philosophy and Natural Logic, and indeed also in science, scientific knowledge, truth and fact, while also ideology should be considered.

Second, Leftists and conservatives (or Rightists) are both characterized by their beliefs in truths and facts, even though their actual ideologies are quite opposed.

And third, ¨leftist¨ and ¨rightist¨ are distinguished from ¨Leftist¨ and ¨Rightist¨ by their having given up a real belief in truths and facts: They are in fact mere leftist and rightist propaganda, without any belief in something like proof, fact or truth.

Finally, the above explanations are also partial (but this is a Nederlog and not a long treatise).

[3] These ¨leftist¨ and ¨rightist¨ have been defined in the previous note: Mere propaganda, without any belief in something like proof, fact or truth


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