from October 19, 2018
This is a
Nederlog of Friday,
This is a crisis
log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:
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.
moment and since more than two years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
four crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading (and there will be five
A. Selections from October 19, 2018:
1. Historian Christopher Browning on the Trump regime: We’re
The items 1 - 4 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:
the point of no return”
2. The Suffocation of Democracy
3. The Autocracy App
Khashoggi: or why you don’t trust the MSM
Christopher Browning on the Trump regime: We’re “close to the point of
This article is by
Chauncey DeVega on Salon. It starts as follows and is here partially
because of Christopher
Browning, who is interviewed in it, as is briefly explained below:
History can teach us
many lessons about Donald Trump and his rise to power. As shown by his
deeds, words and policies, Trump is an authoritarian and a demagogue
who has, so far, been restrained by America's weakened democratic
institutions and norms. Trump has repeatedly shown contempt for
America's cosmopolitan, pluralistic multiracial democracy. He and his
supporters would smash that order and a create a new one based upon
white racial authoritarianism (as well as naked plutocracy) if,
and when, they have the opportunity to do so.
Yes, I think that is basically
Here is more, starting with a number of questions, and ending with an
introduction of Christopher
What lessons do the fall of
German democracy after World War I and the rise of the Nazis and Adolf
Hitler hold for the United States in the age of Trump? What role does
an assault on democratic norms and traditions play in the rise of
fascist and authoritarian movements? In what ways are "traditional"
Republican elites like Mitch McConnell responsible for an
"outsider" such as Donald Trump taking power? Is dissent being
criminalized in the United States by Trump and his followers? What
is "illiberal democracy," and how will it do the work of
authoritarianism in the U.S. and elsewhere? Is Trump a fascist, or is
he better described using another label?
In an effort to answer
these questions I recently spoke with Christopher R. Browning. He is
the Frank Porter Graham Professor of History Emeritus at the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an expert on the
Holocaust and Nazi Germany. He is the author of several books,
including the most recent "Remembering Survival: Inside a Nazi Slave-Labor Camp." Browning is
also the author of the recent and widely-read essay "The Suffocation of Democracy," which appeared both
online and in the Oct. 25 edition of The New York Review of Books.
I could make many
remarks about the quoted bits, but make only two:
The first is on ¨Is Trump a fascist, or is he better described
using another label?¨. Here
regular readers will not be amazed if I say that I think that Trump is
best defined as a neofascist, which I defined as
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 state, b. A political philosophy or
movement based on or advocating such a social system.
This is my
definition (and may be compared with my definition of fascism) and the
reason I call Trump a neofascist is that the above definition
effectively proposes 11 criterions, while Trump clearly
satisfies all eleven criterions.
I also think this is
quite clear, but then again I know that the term ¨neofascism¨
is quite undefined except by me (as far as I know) and seems not
to be used by any journalist I have read in the last ten years
And my second remark is
that I do like and admire Christopher Browning, indeed
especially because of his most prominent book ¨Ordinary Men¨ that I read quite a few years ago, because it did
clarify a number of questions I had about Nazi Germany and German
concentration camps, which I had mainly because both of my parents were in the resistance
against the Nazis in Holland, as was my father´s father, while both my
father and his father were arrested in August 1041 and convicted as
¨political terrorists¨ to concentration camp imprisonment, which my
grandfather did not survive.
Back to the article. In
the quotations that follow, bold statements are by DeVega, and the
non-bold statements are replies by Browning. Here is the opening
question plus part of Browning´s answer:
As a historian and
expert on Nazi Germany, how are you feeling? What were your first
reactions to Donald Trump's rise to power?
The first reaction was
frustration. We are caught in a situation where none of our previous
political experiences as a country when democracy was functioning well,
albeit far from perfectly, equipped us to deal with this situation. I
sensed that it would be a tyranny of the majority which would create
this type of crisis. This is why, of course, we have the Bill of Rights
and other checks on power. But what we really have now with Donald
Trump and the Republican Party is a tyranny of the minority,
where gerrymandering, voter repression and the Electoral College give a
minority of the population a majority vote even when they don't have
control of the presidency or the House and Senate.
Yes, I think this is true.
Here is more:
The second feeling is
bewilderment. As a rational thinker, someone who believes in the
Enlightenment project and liberal democratic norms, I assumed that the
truth and basic facts were a type of sunshine. If you put enough of
this light out there for the public, they would make good decisions.
But now, with Trump and his enablers, systemic serial lying is
rewarded. The very notion that there are facts and discernible truths
are being rejected by a good percentage of the American people. We are
stuck in a situation where President Trump's spokespeople say things
like, “Well, we have alternate facts," or "The truth evolves," or "The
truth is not true." Basically, the truth has become utterly
instrumental to close to half the population.
Well... yes and no.
I do - up to a point
- share Browning´s ¨feeling of bewilderment¨, but then again I think my
main two reasons for sharing it with Browning is that he and I are
alike in both being intelligent and having a university education. And
since there are only a minority of academically educated
persons, of whom again only a none too large part is really
intelligent (as Browning undoubtedly is), I may be a bit less
bewildered than Browning (but don´t know).
And I also have a
remark on Browning´s ¨The
very notion that there are facts and discernible truths are being
rejected by a good percentage of the American people¨:
I agree this is so, but
I do have an explanation
which I think is basically quite correct, even though I have
never or hardly ever seen it shared by journalists: That (bolding
added) ¨facts and
discernible truths are being rejected¨ must be due to a combination of stupidity and ignorance combined
with a kind of narcissism
of the stupid.
And I grant that while
I never had a high opinion of the intelligence
of most people, what I have learned over the past more than five years
of reading parts of 35 news-related sites every day is that my
estimates of the average stupidity and ignorance were too high: it´s
considerably worse and more widespread than I thought.
Here is Browning on the
partial parallelism of Nazi Germany and Trumpian America:
What went wrong post-World
War I in Germany is instructive, but it is not an exact parallel for
what is happening today in America with Donald Trump. One thing that is
clear, however, is that if people do not accept the ground rules by
which democracy operates, and winning at all costs and incivility
become the norm, then things fall apart. There has to be an acceptance
of the norms and rules, and a sense of obligation to one another and
the democracy, by the broader political community.
I agree there is not
an exact parallel and that there are in fact considerable differences,
but I believe that my explanation that many ¨people do not accept the ground rules by
which democracy operates¨
basically because they are stupid and ignorant makes
this a quite important problem, in part because it also is
solvable - if at all - only in the future and not now.
Here is Browning on
calling Trump ¨a fascist¨ (and more):
In fact, there is another
reason why calling Trump ¨a fascist¨ is helping little: Anyone who
seriously studies the meaning of the term ¨fascism¨ - see e.g.
here: On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions - will find that there are easily more
than 20 different definitions of the term, many of which are not
Is Donald Trump a
"fascist" or, as I have often described him, a "proto-fascist" or
"American fascist"? Is such language accurate or helpful?
I think that calling Trump a
"fascist" takes our eye off the ball. I'm a little hesitant to use that
We are at a point now in the
United States with Donald Trump where democracy is beleaguered. But it
is in the form of a new kind of authoritarianism, what I call
"illiberal democracy," where the whole system does not need to be
changed entirely. You don't need a vast army of secret police. You
don't need concentration camps. You don't need to lock up all your
Ultimately, I don't think
that Hitler as dictator is the right template or the right model for
understanding Trump and lot of these other regimes that we're dealing
with today around the world.
Therefore the least that should be done - rationally speaking -
by anyone calling anyone else ¨a fascist¨ is that a definition of
the term is supplied, but it is precisely this that is exceedingly rare (and the definitions that are
offered are often both poor and partial and not proper
Also, I am not happy with
Browning´s term ¨illiberal democracy¨, mostly because it sounds too
much like an oxymoron,
like ¨cold heat¨. There is a similar term by Sheldon Wolin,
namely ¨inverted totalitarianism¨, which is explained in an article I
wrote in 2014, namely here to
which there is a supplement here,
that also gives links to earlier interviews that Chris Hedges had with
Wolin (which are quite interesting and worthwile to read).
I should add that I also have some troubles with understanding ¨inverted totalitarianism¨, but I think it is
a better term than ¨illiberal democracy¨.
Also, I think Browning is probably correct in saying that ¨I don't think that Hitler as dictator is the
right template or the right model for understanding Trump¨ but it also may be a bit early for
that kind of judgement.
Here is the ending
of this interview (and it is still Browning who is speaking):
What scares me the
most is the significant number of Americans who form Trump's base and
are not going to abandon him. Factor in apathy among other Americans
and then Democrats and liberals and progressives are not going to win
the next two very crucial elections. My other worry is that the
Democrats do not have leadership. No one person has emerged yet with
the status necessary to challenge Donald Trump.
Well... I agree on ¨the significant number of Americans who form
Trump's base and are not going to abandon him¨ but then again I would explain that (for the most
part) by their being stupid and/or ignorant , which alas cannot be cured now.
As to the Democrats: My
main worry is that Hillary Clinton may still have the power to assert
herself as Trump´s opponent in 2020, which would be ludicrous but seems
quite possible. And this is a very strongly recommended article
Suffocation of Democracy
This article is by Christopher
Browning on The New York
Review of Books. It starts as follows:
As a historian
specializing in the Holocaust, Nazi Germany, and Europe in the era of
the world wars, I have been repeatedly asked about the degree to which
the current situation in the United States resembles the interwar
period and the rise of fascism in Europe. I would note several
troubling similarities and one important but equally troubling
Of course this is the same
Browning as in item 1. The questions a historian
like Browning were asked were quite justified, and here is part of his
Trump seems intent on withdrawing the US from the entire post–World War
II structure of interlocking diplomatic, military, and economic
agreements and organizations that have preserved peace, stability, and
prosperity since 1945. His preference for bilateral relations,
conceived as zero-sum rivalries in which he is the dominant player and
“wins,” overlaps with the ideological preference of Steve Bannon and
the so-called alt-right for the unfettered self-assertion of
autonomous, xenophobic nation-states—in short, the pre-1914
international system. That “international anarchy” produced World War
I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Great Depression, the fascist
dictatorships, World War II, and the Holocaust, precisely the sort of
disasters that the post–World War II international system has for seven
decades remarkably avoided.
I think this is a bit schematic,
but that is hardly avoidable in an article like this, and it is also
mostly correct in my opinion.
Here is more:
reservations McConnell and other traditional Republican leaders have
about Trump’s character, governing style, and possible criminality,
they openly rejoice in the payoff they have received from their
alliance with him and his base: huge tax cuts for the wealthy,
financial and environmental deregulation, the nominations of two
conservative Supreme Court justices (so far) and a host of other
conservative judicial appointments, and a significant reduction in
government-sponsored health care (though not yet the total abolition of
Obamacare they hope for).
This is quite correct.
Here is Browning on invoking the Nazis as explanation for Trump:
both actual and foreseeable, must not obscure a significant difference
between the interwar democratic decline and our current situation.
Actually, I don´t know, for I do
not know ¨the direction in which
we are moving today¨. I agree
with Browning that Nazism and Trumpism are not the same, but otherwise
I do not know.
Invoking the Nazi example was
understandable then, and several aspects of democratic decline in the
interwar period seem eerily similar to current trends, as I have noted.
But the Nazi dictatorship, war, and genocide following the collapse of
Weimar democracy are not proving very useful for understanding the
direction in which we are moving today.
Here is Browning on “illiberal
The most original
revelation of the current wave of authoritarians is that the
construction of overtly antidemocratic dictatorships aspiring to
totalitarianism is unnecessary for holding power. Perhaps the most apt
designation of this new authoritarianism is the insidious term
I have said already why I
do not consider “illiberal
democracy” a happy term, and why I like Wolin´s ¨inverted
totalitarianism¨ a bit better: See here.
Total control of the press and
other media is likewise unnecessary, since a flood of managed and fake
news so pollutes the flow of information that facts and truth become
irrelevant as shapers of public opinion.
Then there is this on the present power of great wealth:
flow of dark money into closely contested campaigns has distorted the
electoral process even further. The Supreme Court decision declaring
corporations to be people and money to be free speech (Citizens
United v. FEC) in particular has greatly enhanced the
ability of corporations and wealthy individuals to influence American
This is completely
correct as is the following remark on the radical decline of the
Another area in
which Trump has been the beneficiary of long-term trends predating his
presidency is the decline of organized labor.
Precisely so. Then there
is this on ¨the media¨:
Since the 1970s that social
contract has collapsed, union membership and influence have declined,
wage growth has stagnated, and inequality in wealth has grown sharply.
The increasingly uneven
playing field caused by the rise in corporate influence and decline in
union power, along with the legions of well-funded lobbyists, is
another sign of the illiberal trend.
The highly critical
free media not only provide no effective check on Trump’s ability to be
a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide
yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and
resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed
when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political
This seems a bit
misleading for two reasons: First, I think Browning should have
distinguished between the mainstream (or corporatist) media and
the non-mainstream media; and secondly, while one can
blame the corporatist media for helping Trump or for maintaining
non-factual ¨explanations¨, I think - while I have considerable
criticism of the non-mainstream media - I do not think they can
be fairly blamed for Trump´s rise and relative popularity.
Here is the ending of Browning´s article:
Trump is not Hitler
and Trumpism is not Nazism, but regardless of how the Trump presidency
concludes, this is a story unlikely to have a happy ending.
The Trump presidency may
end (unlike Hitler´s Germany) with a nuclear war. And as to
Trump and Nazism: As I´ve said, I think Trump is a neofascist
in my sense, but I agree with Browning that the parallelism is
partial. And this is a strongly recommended article.
is by Jacob Weisberg on The New York Review of Books and is in fact
about Facebook. It starts as follows:
Facebook is a company that
has lost control—not of its business, which has suffered remarkably
little from its series of unfortunate events since the 2016 election,
but of its consequences. Its old slogan, “Move fast and break things,”
was changed a few years ago to the less memorable “Move fast with
stable infra.” Around the world, however, Facebook continues to break
many things indeed.
In Myanmar, hatred whipped
up on Facebook Messenger has driven ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
In India, false child abduction rumors on Facebook’s WhatsApp service
have incited mobs to lynch innocent victims. In the Philippines,
Turkey, and other receding democracies, gangs of “patriotic trolls” use
Facebook to spread disinformation and terrorize opponents. And in the
United States, the platform’s advertising tools remain conduits for
Yes indeed - and I
think I should warn you right now that this is a quite good article
that unfortunately is too long to properly excerpt, for which
reason the excerpts that appear in this review are all taken from the beginning
of the article.
Here is one of
Zuckerberg´s biggest and sickest lies:
To drive progress,
Zuckerberg always argued, societies would have to get over their
hang-ups about privacy, which he described as a dated concept and no
longer the social norm. “If people share more, the world will become
more open and connected,” he wrote in a 2010 Washington Post
Op-Ed. This view served Facebook’s business model, which is based on
users passively delivering personal data. That data is used to target
advertising to them based on their interests, habits, and so forth. To
increase its revenue, more than 98 percent of which comes from
advertising, Facebook needs more users to spend more time on its site
and surrender more information about themselves.
That is: ¨Privacy¨ - of
your name, your face, your opinions, your values, your mails, your
writings, your pornography, your friends, the friends of your friends,
your bank account, your income, your physical and mental health,
your experience, your degrees, your opinions, and anything else -
is (according to the billionfold liar Zuckerberg) is ¨a dated concept and no longer the social norm¨ and therefore all your
private data should be given to Zuckerberg
(and are taken besides by the secret services of almost
every country and by Google and other mega-rich firms, but by
almost nobody else, simply because
it is too costly).
I also think that
Zuckerberg may still think that the vast
majority of the over 2 billions who were tricked by Zuckerberg in
making him mega-rich are
"dumb fucks, who trust" him, for that is what he said some
years ago, but then I am neither a dumb fuck nor do I trust Zuckerberg,
but I do grant that he deceived over 2
billion "dumb fucks" and may have destroyed much of the press.
Here is more on
With each apology,
Zuckerberg’s blundering seems less like naiveté and more like malignant
obliviousness. In an interview in July, he contended that sites denying
the Holocaust didn’t contravene the company’s policies against hate
speech because Holocaust denial might amount to good faith error.
“There are things that different people get wrong,” he said. “I don’t
think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong.”
Yes, I think it is
clearly malignant, and it was probably so from the very start.
Here is more on what
may be - quite correctly, in my view, but not according to
Wikipedia - be called totalitarian
Vaidhyanathan does not
think our concerns should stop with Facebook. He says that Apple,
Amazon, Microsoft, and Google also share a totalizing aspiration to
become “The Operating System of Our Lives.” But Facebook is what we
should worry about most because it is the only one within range of
realizing that ambition. It currently owns four of the top ten social
media platforms in the world—the top four, if you exclude China and
don’t count YouTube as a social network. Zuckerberg’s company had 2.2
billion monthly active users in June 2018, more than half of all people
with Internet access around the world. WhatsApp has 1.5 billion,
Facebook Messenger 1.3 billion, and Instagram 1 billion. All are
This is all quite
correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
What would the world look
like if Facebook succeeded in becoming the Operating System of Our
Lives? That status has arguably been achieved only by Tencent in China.
Tencent runs WeChat, which combines aspects of Facebook, Messenger,
Google, Twitter, and Instagram. People use its payment system to make
purchases from vending machines, shop online, bank, and schedule
appointments. Tencent also connects to the Chinese government’s Social
Credit System, which gives users a score, based on data mining and
surveillance of their online and offline activity. You gain points for
obeying the law and lose them for such behavior as traffic violations
or “spreading rumors online.”
Yes indeed: The totalitarian
American corporations - Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google - are introducing their
own kind of totalitarianism,
which will probably end up to look much like China, which is extremely
rapidly growing more and more totalitarian,
as nearly all Chinese are now checked and controlled and punished
with the help of the totalitarian
internet (to which Google is planning to make a huge contribution).
Also, there is a lot
more in this article, which is strongly recommended.
Khashoggi: or why you don’t trust the MSM
This article is by Catte on The
Off-Guardian. This starts as follows:
The alleged murder
of journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a mass media rollout, every bit as
sparsely verified and every bit as questionable as the official Skripal
narrative, but this fact is being overlooked due to the cognitive
dissonance involved in who is being blamed.
In fact, I review this
article mostly because I agree that his fate ¨is a mass media rollout¨ that is in fact
¨sparsely verified¨. I have
no idea what happened to him - and it may be
that the papers are right, but the problem is simply that there is (so
far, at least) very little evidence.
Here is some more:
This is also correct. Here
is the last bit from this article that I quote:
We are being bombarded with
what one commentator rightly described as Grand Guignol narratives of slaughter,
dismemberment, torture, all based on the kind of flimsy claims and
dodgy alleged technologies we are already more than familiar with
in a different context. Despite
an almost total lack of hard evidence, we are being told the
missing Khashoggi is not just definitely deceased, but horribly murdered and definitely by
I think this is also very
probably correct and this is a recommended article.
Do we currently know the
man is dead? Let alone who may have killed him? I don’t think we can
make that claim. We have an allegedly vanished journalist. We have a
number of unproven claims, of varying plausibility. None of this
is evidence of anything.
Yes, the Saudis are
blood-soaked and vile. Yes they are, or have been up to this time,
allies of the empire, but that’s no reason to buy a bare and
unconvincing mainstream narrative that just happens to implicate them
We need to keep repeating the mantra. Khashoggi’s murder, whether
ultimately real or not, appeared in the media, not because it
happened but because it was useful for someone to say that it had. If
he had been murdered at some other time when such news served no
purpose it would have been buried with his body, airbrushed away.
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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
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
from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).
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 (!!).